EMDR was developed in the late eighties by Francine Shapiro and is world recognised as a very effective talking treatment for PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder). It has since been used to alleviate other conditions triggered by a traumatic experience in peoples lives. EMDR works on the theory that painful/traumatic events are stored within the human brain that are left unprocessed. This is because the event at the time was too powerful an experience and as a natural defence we shut off from the trauma, which is hived off and ring-fenced to protect us. In extreme life and death situations, this gives us as humans the best chance of surviving physically and mentally.
These painful events can be re-enacted in our daily lives by triggers. This can cause us to feel that the current event is the same as our original trauma, which sets off both physical and emotional responses as if we were in the original life or death experience.
How does EMDR work?
Through an eight step module, a therapist will work with the client to target the particular event that that has been interfering with current episodes in their day to day lives. Once both are satisfied that they have located this previous unprocessed incident, the desensitise stage will be used with a series of bilateral (side to side) eye movements. By neutralising the original trauma, one is able to reduce significantly anxiety that has been causing distress in current lives and situations.
A case study – “phobia of airplanes”
A person feeling very anxious and experiencing a huge amount of distress as the plane is stuck on the runway for 90 minutes. He feels that he can’t breathe and is on the verge of a panic attack.
When asked in therapy had he experienced this feeling and sensation before, he links it to an experience of being stuck in a lift. We are able to work on the original trauma and to process these distressing memories. We were able to reduce the lingering effects of being stranded in the lift, which enabled the client to adapt healthier coping strategies when travelling in confined spaces.