What is EMDR?
EMDR is an evidence based psychological treatment recommended by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) for the treatment of PTSD. Research indicates that EMDR is helpful for a range of other mental health difficulties such as anxiety and depression.
NICE guidance states that ‘all PTSD sufferers should be offered a course of trauma-focused psychological treatment (trauma-focused cognitive–behavioural therapy or eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing; EMDR)’. (NICE guidelines, CG26 pp 72).
During rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep, your brain is processing information you have taken in throughout the day. EMDR utilises the natural healing ability of your body by using eye-movements, similar to those in REM sleep, to create connections between your brains memory networks to enable your brain to process difficult memories. Instead of eye-movements, other forms of bilateral stimulation such as taps or sounds can also be used to help process the memory.
With repeated sets of eye movements, the memory tends to change in a way that it loses its painful intensity and starts to feel less present. It becomes more of a neutral memory of an event in the past. Resolving difficult memories allows you to live more fully in the present and make positive decisions about your future.
Recent research has shown that group EMDR is also effective in relieving symptoms of PTSD.
What might typically happen in an EMDR session?
Initially you spend some time understanding and learning about birth trauma as well as strategies to manage symptoms and relax. This part of the therapy helps you prepare for processing your difficult memories using EMDR.
Following this, you move into the next phase where you process the memories associated with the traumatic birth. There are a number of steps to EMDR treatment but the key stages are:
· Identify a disturbing part of a troubling memory
· Identify a negative believe associated with that disturbing part
· Identify emotions and body sensations linked to that disturbing part
· Think about the disturbing part and belief whilst making eye movements or noticing taps/sounds as guided by the therapist
· Notice what happens and allow your mind to go with whatever comes up
· This process is repeated until the disturbing part causes less distress – this may happen in one session or it may take a few sessions
Why do I need to make eye-movements or notice taps and sounds?
The side to side motion created by eye-movements, taps or sounds is called bilateral stimulation. It has been found to enhance memory processing. One theory is that the therapy uses the same mechanism as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep where the brain is processing information whilst we sleep.
It does not matter which form of bilateral stimulation is used, the important thing is to find a form of bilateral stimulation that you are comfortable with.