A Review of EMDR Treatment For Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
A Review of EMDR Treatment For Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
By Luke Carter – Founder of Psychic121Readings.com
10th April 2016
What is EMDR?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing and was developed in 1987 by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D., for the treatment of the symptoms relating to past emotional traumas, otherwise known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
EMDR is not intended to be an ongoing therapy, where results are difficult to quantify. Instead, it is intended to be a treatment, and is currently one of the most effective treatments available for dealing with past traumas. With EMDR clinical results are very evident.
This review aims to provide background information, and put forward my personal experience of EMDR. I am publishing this article to show others what they can expect from EMDR treatment. If you want to read more about EMDR as a treatment, please see: Hypnosis and EMDR – written by the 1Mind Clinic where I went.
Please note however, and this is important:
Having read my article, my therapist has informed me that most EMDR is not as I experienced. Most EMDR does not use the correct technique, which is often why you may experience good results and not excellent results – perhaps even bad results, compared with the enormous potential of EMDR if applied correctly.
My experience was therefore far from typical when compared to generic or basic EMDR. This is true for a number of reasons as discussed below, however, the main differences being the duration of the treatment in terms of the number of sessions, the efficacy of each session, and the ability to effectively and efficiently tackle multiple (serious) issues in one session, which is a sought after skill.
Some of the techniques I was fortunate enough to experience, and the subsequent results I achieved, are to be credited to my own therapists’ skills and application of EMDR, with some parts being developed and refined in house, and considered unique to him as a practitioner.
Please don’t let this take power away from your expectation of EMDR, but rather let it be a testament of what can be achieved with an excellent therapist, using advanced techniques.
I am not saying that you should expect less from EMDR, but rather that you should select your therapist carefully, because the results you can obtain can be truly mind-blowing, as I experienced.
EMDR session duration can range from an average of 7 sessions from incorrectly or unskillfully applied treatment, down to as little as one session, depending on the type, nature, severity and number of issues presented. Some of the videos you may have seen online may also portray incorrectly applied techniques and expectations. It’s good to know average expectations, but why settle for average results, when correctly applied, EMDR can be excellent.
To put the differences into perspective, please read the words of my therapist about my experience vs. that of subjects receiving incorrect or generic EMDR:
“Mind Mapping is unique to myself, first trialled at the Priory Mental Hospital Roehampton with resounding success. It is not available anywhere else, and thus exploring confused memories extends treatment plans and cost. What you experienced was very advanced and it may be helpful to draw a conclusion referencing standard EMDR and what to expect – increased session lengths and single subject sessions. Only specialist practitioners are able to group traumas, this requires skill and insight sadly lacking in most therapists, not their fault, advanced techniques create instant change and this can, in my experience, only be achieved when combining EMDR with subtle hypnotherapies that you would not have noticed”.
I am all about seeking excellence, and I was fortunate enough to find a pioneering therapist. My advice is to do your research and know the potential, and set your expectations for your therapist high, because correctly applied, and with the right skills and use of advanced techniques, EMDR, combined with subtle Hypnotherapies is a gift to heal, and that’s what we want. Don’t settle for less. In writing this, you should now know the potential and seek it.
Find your own balance, when reading this article, of what to expect and what to strive for in seeking out a therapist who can help you.
Snapshot Benefits of EMDR:
- Very effective treatment for trauma and related issues (recognised as the best treatment for trauma).
- Can tackle a huge variety of symptoms and conditions – EMDR can be used to tackle root causes of many other issues that may have developed as a result of the trauma(s).
- Extremely uplifting with the almost instant results achieved – can provide immediate relief from major emotional trauma.
- No need to disclose actual memories – offering privacy and integrity throughout the treatment, especially if the trauma is sensitive or elicits feelings of shame. This makes the treatment more suitable to those who may have been too embarrassed to talk about their issues – or seek help.
- Ability to deal with multiple issues within 1 session – cost effective and convenient.
- Hardly any upset for patients, as re-calling experiences is kept to a minimum – and treatment works fast.
- Approved and Recommended treatment by NICE and the NHS (plans to roll out are being discussed at time of writing).
- Offers public health savings due to minimal treatment time, often starting from just one session, compared to CBT which can only target one thing at a time and takes on average 12 sessions, with a fair amount of anxiety caused in the process, compared to the almost nil anxiety caused by EMDR.
- It is an interestingly and refreshing experience!
Snapshot Drawbacks of EMDR:
- None that I can think of, having had the treatment. Perhaps availability at this stage for a good practitioner, but I think this is changing as the awareness of the effectiveness propagates.
Some Background on the Workings of EMDR:
Past traumas are often at the root of many other emotional issues, including low self-esteem, OCD, depression, generalised anxiety disorder, and a whole host of other mental health issues such as insecurity, low self-worth, phobias and addictions etc.
EMDR is related to Hypnotherapy, because during the treatment, clients often go into a trance. This may sound scary, but in reality we all go into trance several times daily, most notably just before we fall asleep at night, and also just after we wake.
Trance is therefore a state of mind where the subconscious mind is much more accessible and suggestible, therefore allowing a good therapist to bypass the waking mind – which only really deals with the expression and rationality of what’s contained in the subconscious mind – and talk directly to the subconscious mind.
You cannot reason well with the waking mind, because often it gets in the way of the healing process by overcomplicating things, which is why this treatment focuses on the subconscious mind.
The subconscious mind holds certain beliefs based on your life experiences. These beliefs are essential, as they help to serve and protect us, but sometimes in the case of traumatic experiences, the mind does not properly learn from the situation, but rather it “gets stuck” on the danger element and replays over and over.
The experience does not get processed properly, or “filed away”, and we cannot get on with our lives in a positive manner. We don’t learn anything from the experience, we just internalise the hurt that the experience caused, and this then causes various negative cycles, and emotional issues to arise.
Usually when we dream, particularly during Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (REM), that’s when our minds start to go through our daily experiences. These experiences are broken down into fragments of information that the mind then uses to formulate certain assumptions, beliefs and opinions based on the experience.
However, if we have been through a traumatic experience, usually all of our senses are overwhelmed at the same time. This causes the mind to “freeze” and hang on to the memory and feelings associated at the time. The mind does not do what it normally does and file these experiences away and learn from them, but rather these thoughts continue to persist and affect our daily lives.
The traumatic thoughts can then causes flashbacks, and manifest in all sorts of negative ways in our daily lives. This often gives rise to insecurities, phobias, anxiety, depression, OCD and many other difficult emotionally driven issues.
Over time this can cycle can create so much havoc and upset, that one may start to have suicidal thoughts, but it doesn’t need to be that way. EMDR to the rescue!
The idea behind EMDR is to set up a framework, as part of the treatment, where these traumatic and upsetting memories can be safely brought to the forefront, and then allowed to process as they should have done, replacing the negative implications with more positive emotions, where one can begin to accept, learn and grow from the experience, rather than suffer. The period after treatment is referred to as Post Traumatic Growth, and is truly a marvel.
EMDR is an amazing treatment because it works without causing distress. You don’t need to talk endlessly about your painful experiences (or even share them). You just need to re-call the memory and allow the EMDR treatment to safely and quickly trigger the brains innate capabilities of re-processing the thought, as it should have done.
EMDR can be used on multiple issues in one session – even big ones – and often you’ll find that once you deal with one issue, lots of others that may be connected will start to dissolve too.
Interestingly, when I went to my first EMDR session recently, I was surprised to learn 5 things (amongst others):
1) That a Hypnotherapist cannot actually hypnotise anyone. They just set the stage for the mind to hypnotise itself. Some are therefore more responsive to Hypnotherapy than others (although if you have a will to respond well, this likely helps the process, along with going to see a skilled therapist).
2) Stage Hypnotists that can get people from an audience to act like a chicken etc., rely on a person’s suggestibility and vulnerability.
I was shocked to learn that actually the people that are selected by the Hypnotherapist, through testing, were suggestive and responsive because they’ve likely had past traumas in their lives, particularly in early childhood.
Some emotional trauma may be severe, and other’s were probably only traumatic to a young person and wouldn’t be now – nonetheless, a trauma is a trauma and exerts an effect on the way we perceive and react to things later – if not attended to properly.
I was saddened that this was the case, and also learned that even if they were previously unaware or had suppressed that trauma, often in the hours, days and weeks that followed, these buried emotions resurfaced and they would have breakdowns without knowing why.
Perhaps the risk is greater with a trauma that a person was not previously aware of, or it had so much emotional impact at the time, that it was simply suppressed and forgotten about.
The severity of the trauma could reflect the subsequent power of resurfacing later. This is therefore unethical, since the subjects are not often informed of the risks, nor are offered any help afterwards.
Of course not every trauma has to be “serious” to produce an effect of suggestibility, but it shows the power that our past can hold on us.
It’s great to deal with buried traumas, but not when there is no
support around, and of course worse still when you don’t even know you are about to have an emotional breakdown.
On an optimistic note, it shows the level to which past traumas can get buried and go unnoticed, causing wide-reaching effects in our daily lives without us realising the root cause(s). This paves the way to recovery and restoration to inner peace once again.
3) Small traumas, which may seem insignificant, often go unnoticed when searching for root causes.
These are the types of trauma that occur early on during childhood and get overlooked as we think they wouldn’t affect us now, but they would have done when we were developing and more vulnerable.
When searching for root causes of larger, more serious symptoms of emotional imbalance, these smaller traumas can often be written off, making the idea that no trauma is insignificant important to stress, as at the time obviously it was traumatic, and has the power to create layers of worsening manifestations in life.
Any trauma and low state of self-strength has the power to make you vulnerable, and often this is what makes us susceptible to take on even more emotional baggage, even if it wasn’t so bad. This over time adds up and takes a toll if not addressed and peace restored.
This leads on to the next point.
4) You can actually regress hypnotically to find the root causes of emotional traumas. If one is not immediately apparent or if you still haven’t attained full relief from treatment because you haven’t been tackling the root cause(s) of the issue(s), then this can work well.
This controlled trance, within a hypnotic framework, can help identify buried or unknown traumas and emotional issues, that we may call the “root causes” of the expression of the condition(s) we may be suffering.
5) For a traumatic experience to be created in the mind, usually it involves all of the senses at the same time. This is why often certain situations may trigger off flashbacks.
It is often not the situation itself, but rather the association of the
elements experienced from our past traumas that creates the flashbacks to the related emotions.
This could be a sight, smell, or even a sound – or a combination of all of the senses at once – everyone has different triggers.
This was explained to me with a good example. When a dog goes to the Vets, they remember the smell of the surgery, the sound of the other animals, the slippery floor, the tastes and sights, and it triggers all of their senses and gets remembered as trauma. Treat a dog at home, and they won’t recall any of this, because the triggers are specific to the past experience.
What to Expect During an EMDR Treatment Session (From My Experience):
I will try to be concise in my account of my experience, bearing in mind that not everyone will have the same one.
The first thing we done is have a chat about things. This chat can be as involved as you see fit. Whilst I would say that I found this part essential, as it allowed me to give a good background, and to also get to know my therapist better and build trust, you don’t have to reveal any details you don’t want to for the actual treatment to work.
This was part of my initial consultation and was offered free of charge, in order to have time to work out if the treatment was suitable, and that we both felt comfortable to continue the treatment.
A lot was explained about the benefits of EMDR and what to expect, and how it worked. I knew it was right for me.
We then went on to create a Mind Map, listing each trauma, insecurity, phobia and limiting belief etc. on paper in different circles. There were no right or wrong and there could never be too many circles, just whatever came to mind.
I was surprised at how many I drew, and even more surprised that when we linked them together afterwards with a pen, they almost came from my mind perfectly in order and in relation to each other.
We then proceeded to work out a rating out of ten for how much that particular thing affected my daily life on average. After this we
decided what to “turn each down to” out of ten. For example, if fear of heights was at a number 8, then we could decide to put it down to say 3 for example. Going too low wouldn’t be good because it is good to have a healthy respect for heights! A good therapist would have respect for this.
After all of this was down on paper, then treatment could begin.
I was asked to group together past experiences or beliefs that I thought were related, with a bit of guidance, then my therapist went to work at lowering their impact on my daily life, and associating them with more positivity, through properly processing them with the EMDR technique.
Some issues were targetted first as they were more “root causes” and would allow for the better tackling of smaller ones, and so forth. It was like a domino effect.
Basically, any past trauma could be primarily responsible for any of the secondary effects that we struggle with. Traumas and fears always have a root, and getting to the root of the problem in the key to overcoming them, and that’s why EMDR is so effective.
Sometimes the root can be a severe experience, and sometimes one that may have been severe at the time such as when you were growing up, but not perceived as that now, and sometimes the root could be buried and suppressed because it was severe and occurred during early childhood, and the list goes on.
The most important thing is to find and identify them, and then deal with them safely and effectively.
Working through the issues on the piece of paper, particularly if you have found the root causes, will have a domino effect on the smaller ones, and sometimes on the bigger symptoms you experience. It’s all one big hierarchy.
Sometimes there may be one root cause and sometimes there will be multiple, but one thing is for sure, the rate at which they can be treated creates the opportunity to realise if you have missed any.
You just refer back to the list and if any persist, then you can work more on them, or regress back hypnotically to find a possibly overlooked root cause, if progress has slowed.
The beauty is that throughout this process, whatever happens, you are taking off layers and layers of baggage, hurt, limiting beliefs, phobias, reasons for depression, anxiety, driving forcing for OCD etc., and all in a safe, “happy” way. Not once did I feel any emotional difficulty.
The other beauty of EMDR is that you don’t have to tell the therapist what the actual issue is. They will go to work and ask you to re-call the memory in your mind, and that is enough for the treatment to work effectively. This is particularly useful if the barrier to you seeking help was embarrassment or shame.
The treatment began, and for each issue we decided on working on, in an order we both agreed on, I simply re-called the memory, the EMDR technique was applied, and within minutes relief and results were obtained.
It’s amazing how quickly each issue can be worked on, and we worked on a lot!
If you want to see a video on Healing Trauma with EMDR, then you can view the video below. Please note that this is an example, and your experience may vary, depending on practitioner:
During each “round” of treatment, focusing on a different memory, the results in real time were amazing. I was asked to re-call the experience, and that’s all I had to do whilst the EMDR technique was used to first identify where I “felt” the experience in my body.
This feeling was used to assess the progress during the short rounds of EMDR treatment on a scale of one to ten. Additional rounds of EMDR were used to tackle more stubborn emotional issues, but they don’t take long to complete.
EMDR then went to work on putting the brain into a state where it would naturally begin to process the hanging memory. The brain knows how to do this already because that’s what we do every night when processing experiences; only traumatic experiences get stuck and don’t get processed properly.
During this process, the memories begin to fragment into useful pieces of information, rather than remaining stuck as painful emotional experiences that don’t serve you.
Don’t worry though, you won’t notice any of this. What you do notice (and I was worried later that I wasn’t doing it right), is that as the treatment was underway, the memories I was holding in mind were travelling from my focus, and a feeling of happiness replacing them.
This is strange at first, but I didn’t care because I was so interested in the happiness that was taking its place. It’s like you can’t properly focus on the memory anymore. Obviously if you are experiencing happiness then you’ll find it harder to maintain sharp focus on the memory, and this is where I thought I was going wrong, but I wasn’t.
The memory was becoming harder to focus on because it’s power was fading, and feelings of happiness were following. I was worried I was taking the easy way out by focusing on the happiness, but that was just the memory being processed and released from gridlock.
Happiness is an innate quality of mind, and if you know anything about mindfulness, which teaches you this, you’ll know that your thoughts and emotions often obscure this happiness. It was as if the clouds of trauma were being removed.
It did feel strange when I was feeling so happy when treatment was focusing on a past trauma, but we must realise that beyond a certain point, we’re not meant to carry these traumas around.
After we reached (after checking constantly) the targeted level out of ten for each, the results and euphoria experienced throughout were solidified with the reprocessing part of the treatment, so that much more positive connections were built in place of the old stuck ones.
This level of euphoria was measured on a different scale, from 1-7, so as to clearly differentiate between each part of the treatment.
This is not to be confused with forgetting these traumatic memories, but instead they have just been processed and filed into the correct filing cabinets. EMDR allows the brain to use what is useful, learn, and then return to a state of balance, rather than imbalance.
Some traumas and memories went down more quickly than others, but a skilled therapist will pick up on this and put more focus on the memories that go down more slowly, paying attention to the surrounding ones, including knowing whether it’s likely that there is an undiscovered root cause to find – or perhaps several. We’re still talking a matter of minutes, and to mention again, there was no feeling of discomfort or upset throughout.
I highly recommend EMDR. I had a big list to work on, and simple lists will be even quicker, but I was astounded at how much we got through, and how quickly things that have plagued me for years, just dissolved in front of my eyes (no pun intended!).
It was explained to me that after the treatment, I would experience what is known as Post Traumatic Growth.
Post Traumatic Growth is where the mind uses the information from these memories to grow. Like most of the memories we have, these experiences are filed in the correct filing cabinets.
The rest of the growth likely comes from the fact that our mind is restored back to balance, where it can begin to grow, rather than fixate on a memory that got stuck.
I can recommend EMDR for lots more than trauma, because I believe that nearly every fear, anxiety, phobia, insecurity, limiting beliefs etc., are just in fact mirrors of the fears created by trauma.
Note: Some issues may require different therapies and treatments.
Everyone is different, but everyone is also the same. We experience things differently, but we can also all grow and repair ourselves, and this treatment works with the very mechanism the mind uses to file all our memories properly, and that for me was enough.
EMDR turned my life around in a few hours, and I cannot recommend it highly enough, and with fast growing support from public mental health services, EMDR is definitely one to consider.
When your mind has a healthy relationship with itself, you can really offer more of your love, because you are more at peace within yourself. You are not fearful of your thoughts anymore.
It’s amazing the amount of stress you put on yourself and those around you by carrying around these past traumas. Set yourself free, and start to cherish the ones you love more.
EMDR can also help with nearly any limiting belief, and after all, we are what we believe, so why not believe in the best!
Good luck on your journey to improved wellbeing and internal balance, and I strongly recommend that you at least book an initial consultation with a good therapist who offers EMDR treatment.
The initial consultation should be free to allow the therapist to tell you more about EMDR, and for you to both decide whether you are comfortable working with each other, because that’s very important.
Here is the link to the Clinical Hypnotherapist and Specialist EMDR Practitioner I visited – Adrian Shute at the 1Mind Clinic, based in Hitchin, UK: http://www.1mind.org
Adrian operates in and around London and is flexible. There may be opportunities to deal with certain things on the phone or by Skype etc., but if anything, visit his site, learn about EMDR and give it a try.
Adrian deals with a massive amount of issues, and using a combination of Hypnotherapy and EMDR, you can conquer them all.
EMDR is mainly a treatment for trauma related issues, but then again nearly all emotional issues stem from past traumatic experiences, so it’s definitely worth a try.
I went for OCD issues, along with a barrage of traumatic memories, which were causing much distress in my daily life, and I was amazed how everything was linked, and just like dominoes, I could see the effect as we tackled each major issue. All the smaller ones seemed to just melt away.
I feel I needed more than 1 session, as there was a lot to get through, but was absolutely amazed as what we managed to achieve in them few hours. That’s the power of EMDR, and I am extremely confident going back to reach the next level of healing.
If this had been another form of therapy, the scope and duration would have been extremely lengthy and difficult to plough through, but with EMDR and Hypnotherapy, ploughing it is – with ease.
Book a session and see for yourself. You don’t have to suffer; you can flourish and reach your full potential.
Extra Help – Mindfulness
Mindfulness can also help the overall progress and effectiveness of EMDR sessions, and in life generally. I have been using the Headspace Mindfulness Meditation App, and have been getting great results. Practicing just after waking is best as the mind is most suggestive to the practice, and this sets the day up well.
To see my full review on Headspace visit: http://www.psychic121readings.com/headspace-mindfulness-meditation-app-review/
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