EMDR and associated trauma therapy is a toolkit for managing the difficulties that come from difficult memories or feelings associated with a negative experience.
What is a traumatic memory?
A memory can become ‘sticky’ when something happens while we are under extreme stress (frightened, upset, terrified) and our brain cannot process the information about it in a normal way. Stress chemicals that we produce when we are under extreme stress change how our brains cope with and process information.
Basically, the memories, feelings or thoughts associated with that very difficult time can get stuck. They can continue to pop up and bother us when we aren’t expecting them to or when we don’t want them to. And they can bring high levels of distress and can lead us to want to avoid difficult places, things or feelings so that we don’t have to keep dealing with the sticky memories again. Therapy aims to ‘unstick’ the difficult memories, thoughts and feelings.
Includes big and small experiences
Stuck memories can involve symptoms of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) that result from experiences of trauma such as accidents but they can also be of the less dramatic kind resulting from difficult experiences such as bullying at school.
What is EMDR therapy?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing, which is a rather long and confusing name for a therapy that has now evolved into a treatment involving a process similar to REM sleep to separate strong emotions from memories so that they can be put away safely.
Who is it aimed at?
EMDR therapy is for children, young people or parents who have experienced a significant source of stress that has meant they have memories, thoughts or feelings that are ‘stuck’.
How does it work?
EMDR aims to use the brain’s usual processes to ‘unstick’ the difficult memories, thoughts and feelings. EMDR is done in different stages, and can be in person or online. It is a bit like dreaming in that you process experiences whilst stimulating your brain in some way (like REM) such as by drumming your hands or for children rocking on a wobble board.
What is it like to do EMDR?
This is a very powerful and effective tool for managing 'stuck' memories. It involves finding out more about the difficulties, choosing the ‘stuck’ memories and feelings to focus on, and then teaching the person a variety of strategies to feel safe and able to cope with any difficult feelings that might come up. It moves on to a couple of sessions of ‘processing’ – which is when an image or thought is held in mind while doing eye-movements (or other forms of stimulating the brain like tapping or rocking on a wobble board). The therapist will ask you questions and guide you gently through the process. For young children it usually involves a parent working alongside the child, and older children may want a parent present as an observer.
It can be tiring to complete sessions because of the concentration involved.
A parent described this process to us in this way. "For the first two appointments I drove a silent teenager to and from the appointment and we needed not to discuss it. But by the third we drove home with him singing and whistling to music. It was so good to see."
Another younger child had experienced an accident and subsequent anxiety including bedwetting, angry outbursts etc. After two sessions these had all stopped.
A Confident Start Therapy
At this practice, we provide EMDR and associated trauma therapy for adults and children. We can work online for over 12s, which speeds up the process and gives more flexible times. For younger children we work in person in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. Please contact us for a no obligation chat about what you need help with.
Dr Helen Care