Four things you should know about EMDR therapy
EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) is a relatively new therapy – but therapy standards. It was developed in the 1980s by a Psychologist who wanted to understand how and if we could reprogramme our brains to help us deal with the effects of trauma.
Your brain will change after a trauma
Research has shown that a traumatised brain reacts differently from a brain belonging to someone who hasn’t experienced trauma. For instance, activation levels in the part of the brain that looks after our fear response are higher in a traumatised brain (meaning we may constantly feel in a ‘fight or flight’ mode and the parts of the brain that are responsible for relaxation and enabling us to sleep are less activated – so we find it much harder to switch off.
We think EMDR therapy helps reset these areas, and others, of the brain.
EMDR can work quickly
EMDR therapy can help you along your journey. EMDR does not claim to wave a magic wand and make all your problems disappear; however, it can produce fast results. “Most people feel the effects of EMDR within the first few sessions of their therapy. Some people think, feel and behave differently in their daily lives. Many people find they can talk about the experience without the emotional charge, without feeling overwhelmed, enraged or ashamed. By the end of their therapeutic journey, it is not uncommon for people to report the experience as being “over there”, just a memory” and “it’s over now”-and no longer holding power over them. It’s amazing to watch.” Says Dr Opoku.
It’s normal to feel nervous
Embarking on a therapeutic journey can be a liberating yet scary endeavour. You may experience some trepidation about undertaking this venture particularly if it is the first time you speak to a professional about the issue. Naturally, you may be concerned about what else it could bring up for you, so you might be tempted to remain silent.
“It’s quite normal to have these feelings,” Dr Opoku says, “however keeping silent reinforces the ‘godforsaken isolation of trauma’. Being able to say and name what has happened to you can offer the possibility of control and agency.”
You might feel a bit ‘weird’ after a session
You may find yourself thinking deeply about the experience. You may find that you have vivid dreams about the experience and or notice yourself feeling more emotional than usual. You may also notice sensations in your body after the first few sessions. This is perfectly normal as your brain continues to make sense of the experience after each processing session. These changes will reduce over time, and as the sessions go by you will begin to notice positive changes in how you are functioning and observe changes in your outlook.
At the end of your EMDR therapy session, you can expect to feel differently about the experience. You may find that you can talk about it, should you wish, without experiencing flashbacks, physical sensations or all the negative thoughts and emotions associated with the experience. Most people say at the end of their EMDR therapy that the experiences become memories like any other, something that happened but doesn’t continue to have a negative psychological effect.
Some people report that after using EMDR to treat specific phobias, for example, animals, planes etc., the thing they feared or were phobic about, becomes just a ‘thing’. It becomes, “just a spider, or a plane”, and they no longer feel fearful or overwhelmed by it.