Unlocking Healing: Exploring the Benefits of EMDR Therapy

4 sets of post-it notes green, orange, yellow and pink with EMDR written on them

What is EMDR therapy?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a therapeutic modality that is gaining increased attention especially since Prince Harry (on EMDR) brought it into the limelight.  Prior to that it’s effectiveness in treating diverse difficulties has been well documented through numerous research studies in treating PTSD and trauma recovery- see here for some EMDR for PTSD effectiveness research. EMDR has shown to be effective for other conditions as well.

Why is this such a big deal? Let’s draw attention to some of the healing benefits of EMDR to get an insight.

First, let’s understand EMDR

EMDR is a fairly young therapy which was developed in the late 1980s by psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro to aid trauma recovery. It is rooted in the idea that distressing experiences, especially traumatic ones, can become “stuck” in the brain’s information processing system, leading to ongoing psychological and emotional distress. EMDR aims to facilitate the adaptive processing of these memories by integrating them into a more balanced and less distressing narrative. See here for the main things you need to know about EMDR.

How Does EMDR Work?

EMDR therapy involves an 8 staged structured approach that involves much more than a therapist wagging their fingers around. I know…Stay with me…EMDR incorporates bilateral stimulation – the activation of both brain hemispheres, typically through eye movements, hand taps, or auditory tones. This bilateral stimulation is thought to mimic the natural process of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) during sleep, which helps with processing and integrating traumatic memories and helping them to become un-stuck and in turn aiding trauma recovery.

What are the benefits of EMDR therapy?

Safety comes first

A part of the 8 stages of EMDR is the stage of preparation which does exactly that. It prepares the client mentally by using calming imagery and internal resourcing before they go anywhere near traumatic memories. As a core part of the structured approach it needs to be done before going further.

Enables Control

Clients should know where they are in the 8 stages of EMDR which in turn gives them a sense of agency over their therapeutic journey. If you don’t know, just ask the therapist to talk through this with you. Alongside this, control can be felt through the whole process as the client is truly the expert in their experiences and the therapist is the guide. Clients can chose which bits to focus on and how much to disclose.

Processing traumatic experiences:

One of the primary aims of EMDR therapy is the reduction of trauma-related symptoms. EMDR helps individuals process traumatic memories in a safe and controlled environment, which reduces the distress associated with past experiences and helps to heal from past pain.

Reduction of Distressing Symptoms:

EMDR has shown promising results in alleviating a wide range of distressing symptoms associated with trauma, such as anxiety, depression, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and flashbacks. By targeting the root cause of these symptoms, EMDR helps individuals experience significant relief and regain control over their lives. Most clients go on to reclaim their life with a feeling of ownership, confidence and hope for the future.

Reprocessing Negative Beliefs:

Traumatic experiences often shape an individual’s core beliefs about themselves and the world around them. EMDR helps to identify unhelpful beliefs and through reprocessing, replace them with more adaptive and positive ones. This process is called cognitive restructuring which can play a crucial role in recreating long-lasting psychological well-being.

Enhanced Self-Awareness:

EMDR therapy not only addresses past trauma but also promotes self-awareness and personal growth. Through the therapeutic process, individuals gain a deeper understanding of their emotional reactions, thought patterns, behaviours and actions.  This heightened self-awareness empowers them to make healthier choices and build more fulfilling relationships.

Speed and Efficiency:

Compared to some therapeutic approaches, EMDR therapy has been reported to yield results in a shorter time frame. This efficiency can be particularly beneficial for individuals who want to address their concerns and move forward in their lives more rapidly. There is also a growing number of clinicians including Dr Kaur who offers an intensive EMDR therapy option as there are an increasing amount of people who want to work on their difficulties in an intensive way.

Full Disclosure is not Essential

Sometimes telling another person about our hardest life experiences remains a challenge. With EMDR the actual full description of events and the description during processing does not need to be disclosed. Therapists are aware that asking for too much detail whilst the processing is taking place may impact the actual process and take the person further into their left hemisphere brain in terms of thinking in words, logic and sequencing and in turn pull them away from their right hemisphere of feelings, visualisation, non-verbal and emotional part of the brain. Therapists even have a blind to therapist protocol they can follow if the client does not want to disclose details. The aim is the find a way the ease the client through their pain rather than force them rigidly through a strongest process whilst ensuring they feel safe and connected at all times. Trauma recovery starts with feeling safe.

Kick-start Change

The process of EMDR can act as a catalyst to change. Opening up about past pain, sharing it and feeling understood, restructuring unhelpful beliefs and seeing the past through an alternative lens can be an extremely empowering process. Neural connections start altering giving way to newer cognitive experiences and beliefs.

Conclusion

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a powerful and evidence-based approach for healing painful experiences which are causing internal conflict. Its ability to offer so many benefits has made it a preferred choice for many therapists and clients alike. By embracing the benefits of EMDR, individuals can embark on a transformative journey towards emotional well-being and a future which can be approached with more hope.

If you would like to find out more about how EMDR might benefit you, get in touch with Dr Gurpreet Kaur and her team today.

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