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FAQs about EMDR

How do I know if EMDR is the right therapy for me?

Have a read through the EMDR section on my website, this should give you a good grounding in what it is, how it is applied and when.  If you’re still unsure, why not contact me for an initial chat so we can talk it through together and establish if EMDR is the right option for you.


Why does EMDR use eye movement?

The theory behind eye movement is that it enhances memory processing which helps the brain to manage the distressing memories without becoming over activated or triggered.  


This is because information we have stored that is currently active and is used to perform cognitive operations is located in working memory.  Long-term memory, on the other hand, contains memories and knowledge that is not currently active. The capacity of our long-term memory is very large, but the capacity of working memory is much smaller.  


When we undertake two things simultaneously that each tax our working memory, these tasks compete for its limited capacity.  Recalling an upsetting memory and making eye movements/tapping both need working memory capacity.  So, actively remembering a distressing experience and adding the bi-lateral stimulation (in whichever format) leaves less space for that memory. As a consequence, the memory should become less vivid and be less emotionally activating.


However, there are other ways to create bi-lateral stimulation such as tapping, buzzers in the hand, or listening to tones through headphones.  Eye movement was the original format but it has been developed to ensure there is something that can cater to different preferences.  


How many sessions will I need to have?

This is really dependent on each individual.  As a very rough guide, 6-12 sessions of 90 minutes each.  However some people have less and some take more.


The sessions are 90 minutes because it is an involved therapy and we need to make sure there is time to close each meeting down safely and properly.


Can my child/young person have EMDR?

Yes, it’s perfectly safe and effective on children and young people.

What if I just can’t tell you about what’s happened to me?

EMDR is also a talking therapy and we will need to talk about your personal history.  However, this can be at a level of detail that you are comfortable with - if you feel you can only outline the bare bones of difficult experiences you have had, that is fine.


When identifying snapshots and talking about specific memories, you don’t have to say these things out loud.  Although it can be helpful for me to have an understanding of what you’re working with, it isn’t essential.  


So, if you are considering EMDR but feel that there are things you simply cannot say out loud, don’t discount trying it as an option, as the therapy is not compromised by you not verbalising things.


What kinds of things can generally be considered as trauma?

Remember, there is no rule about what experiences are traumatic, this is personal to you.  

Trauma includes (but is not limited to) events that may leave you feeling:

  • Frightened

  • Threatened

  • Humiliated

  • Trapped

  • Ashamed

  • Powerless

  • Abandoned or rejected

  • Hidden or invalidated because your needs/feelings have been ignored or denied


Examples of how Trauma can happen:

  • Being assaulted or attacked

  • Serving in front line roles (a few examples are Armed forces, Police, Firefighters, Medical professionals, Prison & Probation professionals, Veterinarians, Community First Responders, Health & Social Care professionals, Coast Guard & associated roles)

  • Being in an unstable or unsafe environment

  • Living in an abusive or toxic relationship (historical or present, single or multiple)

  • Being harmed yourself (intentional or unintentional)

  • Involvement in a bad accident

  • Witnessing harm to someone else

  • Experiencing a natural disaster (directly yourself or due to friends/family involvement)

  • Experiencing life changing injury or illness

  • Experiencing discrimination, disadvantage, prejudice or hatred for any reason

  • Working in a helping role and suffering vicarious trauma through hearing first account stories

What side effects might I experience?

EMDR is intense and may bring up unexpected emotions and feelings.


Side effects can be experienced during an EMDR therapy session itself, soon afterwards or in between sessions.


Not everyone experiences these, often if they do come, they don’t last long.  The most commonly reported ones are:


  • Fatigue

  • Flashbacks

  • Physical pain

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Vivid, realistic dreams

  • Hyper-vigilance

  • Increased focus on the trauma(s)

  • Lack of concentration and focus

  • Hyper-sensitivity

  • Increased emotions

  • Feeling faint or light-headed


This list might put you off, but it’s important to remember that the aim of EMDR is to reduce or fully eliminate any pain and distress created by experiences in the past but which still sit with you in the present so you can live a fuller, more healthy life.  A lot of people I work with tell me that they already experience many of these side effects as part of their daily life due to carrying traumatic emotional injuries and as a result of PTSD or c-PTSD.

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