EMDR is a specialised psychotherapeutic technique which was developed in the 1980s. It is particularly valuable in treating cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), physical and sexual abuse, grief and extreme trauma.
The procedure itself is deceptively simple. Clients focus on the problem while the therapist guides them to produce a set of rapid eye movements. As the subconscious begins to present new feelings and thoughts, further sets of eye movements are used to locate the original trauma and replace negative thoughts with positive insights. Hence EMDR - Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing.
The theory behind the therapy is that during times of severe trauma the normal neurochemical reactions of the brain seem to overload and virtually 'freeze' information in the mind. Using EMDR is like 'jump starting' the normal process we use when dealing with distressing events, rather like the rapid eye movements of sleep which produce dreams. The technique of alternating left and right stimulation also seems to enhance the brain's ability to integrate memory fragments and therefore create a less disturbing memory.
One particular research study showed that a significant improvement was produced in 80% of patients suffering from single incident trauma, such as rape, suicide of a family member, combat related trauma) after just three 90 minute EMDR sessions. The therapy is extensively used in all cases of PTSD with veterans from Desert Storm, Vietnam, Korea and World War Two.
Both victims of crime and police officers have been helped with EMDR, in addition to victims of abuse - both children and adults. In fact, one advantage of the treatment is that it can be used with very young children, and as hypnosis is not used it can also benefit those who fear a loss of control. Although effective with psychological trauma, it is also a valuable tool in the treatment of anxiety, phobias, nightmares, sexual problems and depression. It has been compared to using a laser during surgery - cutting through unwanted memories, finding the root of the problem and replacing negative thoughts with positive feelings.
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