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Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing, or EMDR, is a form of psychotherapy and as such can trace its history back many hundreds of years when resolving issues was achieved by seeking counsel and reassurance.

In This Article
History Of EMDR How Does EMDR Work?
A Typical Appointment Timings/ Costs/ Sessions
Is It Right For You?
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing, or EMDR, is a form of psychotherapy and as such can trace its history back many hundreds of years when resolving issues was achieved by seeking counsel and reassurance. Psychotherapy as a method of healing is attributed to the late 19th century work of Sigmund Freud who developed 'psychoanalysis' as a way of helping patients with hysteria and other mental disorders.

EMDR was first developed by American psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1987. While walking, Shapiro became anxious by distressing memories and noticed that scanning her surroundings with her eyes in a back and forth movement would decrease the negative emotions she was experiencing. Assuming that eye movement had a desensitising effect, Shapiro began clinically testing the theory and found other people had a similar response.

Shapiro soon discovered that eye movement alone didn't provide a comprehensive treatment for traumatic memories and events so developed further treatment elements which eventually became known as EMDR. Today, studies have shown EMDR to be an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, panic disorder and childhood/sexual abuse.

Distressing events or experiences can result in the brain becoming overwhelmed and incapable of processing information. A traumatic memory can be frozen or blocked within the processing system and when it's recalled a person can experience the same intense feelings and emotions of the event and remember exactly what they'd felt, seen, heard, smelt or tasted. Distressing memories may be triggered by a physical or emotional reminder or can be recalled with no apparent reason.

EMDR attempts to 'unfreeze' the memory by stimulating the blocked processing system. Using eye movements, sounds or tapping, EMDR helps the brain to decrease the intensity of the memory so it becomes just a normal memory without the associated negative emotions and feelings. EMDR works in a similar way to REM sleep whereby the eyes move rapidly from side to side while dreaming.

Be Prepared
Before visiting an EMDR practitioner it is important to check they are registered with, or accredited by, a professional association or governing body. EMDR is a highly specialised therapy and should be carried out by a licensed mental health care professional. By making these checks you can ensure your EMDR session is carried out by a practitioner who has undergone formal training and has the necessary qualifications to practise the therapy.

As an accredited professional, your therapist must ensure your session is carried out in a suitable environment and they will be bound by a set of ethical codes and practice criteria. The main EMDR organisations are listed at the foot of this article. On finding a suitable EMDR practitioner, question them about their areas of expertise and ask for testimonials from previous clients if you feel it\'s necessary.

Before your first appointment, think about the problems you have and what you hope to achieve with EMDR. Write down your concerns about the therapy as you may forget to ask them during the session. Ensure your therapist is made aware of any prescription medicines you are taking.

EMDR - What To Expect
During your first EMDR session the therapist will take a history of your problem and question you about the behaviours and fears that have led you to seek help. You will not be asked to discuss the traumatic event or experience in detail as the emotions and feelings of the event are what\'s important.

After the initial assessment, the EMDR therapist will teach you some techniques to handle any emotions or feelings you may experience during the session or afterwards. This is an important stage and builds trust between you and the therapist. They will explain EMDR in detail and find out what you expect from the therapy.

The therapist will then move on to assessing the problem by identifying a target, a negative belief and a positive belief. A target will be a visual image of the traumatic event and the emotions and physical sensations you associate with it. You will be asked to rate the intensity of your emotions and sensations as you focus on this \'target\' or image. The negative belief is something about yourself that is related to the memory and you\'ll rate this on how much you believe it to be true. You will then be asked for a positive belief about yourself.

Once the assessment stage is complete, the therapist will lead you through a series of eye movements while recalling the target image. During this process you\'ll be accessing the original trauma and reprocessing it to release the negative emotions which surround it. After each set of eye movements you\'ll be asked to assess your level of disturbance in relation to your target image.

The next stage of your session involves focussing on the physical sensations which emerge as a result of your trauma. You will be asked to recall your target image and notice for any physical tension or sensations in the body. This step is known as the \'body scan\' and identifies the physical pain that manifests as a result of emotional pain. By changing beliefs you may be able to change the way the body reacts to thoughts.

A typical EMDR session lasts 60-90 minutes but your initial session may take longer as your therapist discusses the therapy with you and carries out an assessment.

Prices for EMDR vary depending on your location so check with your local practitioner on costs before making an appointment.

It may take one or two sessions for your therapist to gain an understanding of your problem and from there the number of EMDR sessions you\'ll need depends on the type of problem you have, your circumstances and your progress.

EMDR has proven to be a beneficial and safe therapy for problems resulting from a traumatic event or experience. Conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), panic disorder, childhood abuse, sexual abuse and anxiety are all treatable using EMDR when practised by an accredited health care professional.

You are encouraged to discuss EMDR with your GP and local practitioner as they are trained to recognise what can and can't be treated by the therapy.

This therapy or modality may help with:

Abandonment Accident trauma Addiction
Anorexia nervosa Anxiety Bulimia
Chronic Fatigue Chronic Pain Eating Disorders
Grief Headaches Migraines
Panic Attacks Performance anxiety Personality disorders
Phobias Sexual Dysfunction Stress
Trauma (PTSD)

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