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In this blog, Dr Jennifer Opoku, Chartered Counselling Psychologist and Clinical Partner London, explores EMDR therapy and what you can expect from your appointments.
EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) is a relatively new therapy – but therapy standards. It was developed in the 1980’s by a Psychologist who wanted to understand how and if we could reprogramme our brains to better help us deal with the effects of trauma.
Research has shown that a traumatised brain reacts differently to 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 is higher in a traumatised brain (meaning we may feel constantly 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 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 incredibly fast results. “Most people feel the effects of EMDR within the first few sessions of their therapy. Some people find themselves thinking, feeling and behaving differently in their day to day life. Many people find they are able to talk about the experience without the emotional charge, without feeling overwhelmed, enraged or ashamed for example. 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.
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 are speaking to a professional about the issue. Naturally, you may be concerned about what else it could bring up for you and 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 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 whole outlook.
At the end of your EMDR therapy session, you can expect to feel differently about the experience. You may find that you are able to 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 a memory 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.
If you are interested in finding out more about how EMDR can help you or a loved one, you can speak to one of our triage team by calling 0203 326 9160 or request a call back. Dr Opoku is available for consultations in our central London clinic.