Forty six years ago I was due to emigrate with my husband of four years and our two small children.
We’d sold the house, and then he began an affair with a friend. After a few short weeks he decided he wanted to be with her. The house sale went through, and we were left homeless.
I raised my children alone against great odds. We made a success of our lives (I bought several houses and became a qualified psychiatric nurse and counsellor), but for 46 years the trauma of being poor, insecure and homeless stayed with me.
Now, in a surprisingly short time, EMDR has chased the ghosts away. I feel new and different. Strong and happy.
I recommend EMDR for anyone who has pain from past experiences which they cannot seem to get over. It has been wonderfully healing.
EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing – is a term for therapy which, it’s true, does require some explanation. (Indeed, the American psychologist Francine Shapiro who first conceived this system in the late 1980s now rather regrets restricting the definition to eye movement.)
Built on a clear and grounded understanding of how the brain and the body experience and process trauma and distress, EMDR is now undoubtedly one of the most successful, effective and intensively-researched ways we know of tackling the aftermath of trauma.
And that is true not just for the “Big T” traumas such as road accidents, bomb attacks or assault, but for the “small t” traumas as well that accumulate in most people’s childhoods and lives and often underlie their seeking of therapy.
At Braynework we have been using this approach with clients for more than a decade now, and are regularly inspired – and often still astonished – by the positive changes our clients can find themselves experiencing.
So how does EMDR actually work?
Simply put, EMDR uses bilateral stimulation of the physical senses, replicating eye movements similarly to what happens in your brain during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep when you dream.
Or, we use gentle buzzers held in each hand, or headphones, or taps on the back of your hands, which have the effect of getting the brain’s thinking left hemisphere to communicate intensely with its feeling right half. (OK, that’s a sweeping generalisation of brain science, but we hope it gives you an idea).
The effect is to create healing connections at the deepest emotional, physical and intellectual levels, kick-starting the dreaming-related brain circuitry that makes sense of, and often quite quickly lays to rest, old distress which has until now continued to impact negatively on the present.
Indeed, just as the physical body heals naturally given a chance, EMDR is built on the knowledge that, given the opportunity, the psyche can do the same.
The pysche is, after all, also a function of our brains and bodies, and whether the healing sought is physical or emotional, wounds first need to be cleaned out and, as it were, bones reset.
With single-event traumas such as a car accident or an assault, much good work can often be done in just three or four meetings.
Sometimes, if the trauma sits deeper – perhaps tangled up with childhood experiences of abuse or neglect – it can take longer, and needs to be embedded within a wider, slower and more exploratory approach.
Although, of course, nothing can ever be entirely guaranteed to work, our experience of using EMDR is that it can bring about deep, powerful and rapid change, reaching parts which other forms of therapy sometimes just don’t shift.
Some of those Mark has worked with have been kind enough to describe their experiences of EMDR, and you might find their thoughts reassuring.
Standard session length is 55 minutes, although when working through the main phase of EMDR, with your agreement we might agree to work for longer sessions of between 90 minutes and two hours, carefully paced at a depth and speed which is right for you.