EMDR is a unique, evidence-based psychotherapy, which helps people to recover from the distress associated with traumatic events.
Such traumas can include anything from a single event such as an accident, to more repeated experiences of abuse. EMDR is recommended by National Institute for Clinical Excellence for post-traumatic stress disorder, and has also been used to treat other psychological difficulties, including anxiety-based disorders and phobias.
EMDR can be facilitated in either virtual or face to face appointments.
There are eight phases to EMDR therapy: history taking and treatment planning, preparation, assessment, desensitization, installation, body scan, closure, and then re-evaluation. More details are explained below.
The number of sessions it will take to complete the treatment depends on the distressing events you have experienced. For example, a single-incident trauma will be reprocessed more quickly than repeated experiences of abuse.
1. History taking and treatment planning: This phase will include a discussion of the specific problems that have brought you to therapy, including problematic thoughts, behaviours or relational patterns that arise from the distressing events that you have experienced. Some people seeking therapy are comfortable to talk openly during therapy but EMDR is different to traditional talking therapies in the sense that you do not need to share details of the distressing memories if you would prefer not to. Our clinical psychologist only needs a general outline so that the target event can be identified in readiness for the subsequent phases of the therapy.
2. Preparation: During the preparation phase, our clinical psychologist will explain the process of EMDR, including how it works and what to expect. They will also work with you to identify a variety of anxiety relaxation techniques that will help you to self-soothe.
3. Assessment: During the standardised assessment phase, our clinical psychologist will support you to work through each of the target memories you identified in phase 1 so that they can be effectively reprocessed. As above, reprocessing does not involve talking about details. Firstly, you will be asked to select an image from the memory, as well as to identify the associated negative self-belief, emotions and physical sensations. You will then be asked to rate how distressing this is on a scale of 0 to 10 (Subjective Units of Distress – SUDs). Secondly, you will be asked to choose a positive self-statement that you would prefer to believe and you will be asked to rate how much you feel this to be true on a scale of 1-7 (Validty of Cognition – VoC). The aim of EMDR therapy is for your SUDs to decrease and VoC to increase.
4. Desensitisation: This phase of the therapy deals with the person’s difficult memories and focuses on reducing the SUDs to 0 or 1. During desensitisation, our clinical psychologist will guide you to make repeated sets of eye movements. Bilateral stimulation through these eye movements supports the brain to reprocess the memory more like an ordinary memory, reducing the intensity of the associated feelings. It is similar to the effect of rapid eye movement, which occurs naturally in our sleep as we process the events of our day. This is not the same as hypnotherapy and you will remain fully alert and in control for the duration. You can raise your hand to ‘stop’ at any time.
5. Installation: This phase of the therapy focuses on increased the strength of the positive belief (VoC), with further sets of eye moments.
6. Body scan: After the positive cognition has been strengthened, our clinical psychologist will incite you to bring the original target to mind and see if there is any residual tension. Where this applies, these physical sensations will be reprocessed as above.
7. Closure: This phase draws on the self-soothing techniques developed in the preparation phase of the treatment. When processing of the target memory is not complete during a single session, our clinical psychologist will support you to use these strategies in response to any emotional disturbance that may arise during or after a session. This means you can feel confidence that you have control both inside the therapy room and at home, should new material come to mind between sessions.
8. Re-evaluation: At the start of each session, our clinical psychologist will support you re-evaluate your progress before returning to the incomplete reprocessing.