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EMDR online therapy for trauma

EMDR - is this a therapy style that might suit me?

EMDR – How does it work and what can I expect?


There’s enormous value in understanding the mechanics of the theory behind EMDR before exploring it in person – the understanding can facilitate the benefits more readily, but at the same time it’s important not to get blinded by science or theory. In the sessions we explore it more to ensure full understanding, but here’s a very rudimentary outline of the theory.


AIP – Adaptive Information Processing


The alarm system of the brain is centred in the Amygdala. When we jump out of the way of an oncoming car as we start to cross the road, it’s the amygdala we can thank for the lighting fast reaction that saved us. It responds to danger faster than the brain has a chance to process the information – most of us have experienced that at some point in our life. 


The alarm signal is then passed to the hippocampus – the part of the brain believed to process memories and emotions. 


Once the emotions and memories have been stored there the ‘data’ is then passed to the prefrontal cortex – the ‘executive’ part of the brain (and the part that from an evolutionary point of view is the newest arrival to the brain) and there we make sense of the data – we process it, and assess what part of the data is valuable and should be integrated into our understanding of the world, and thereby benefit us – we ‘digest’ the information and pull out the nutrients.


That is the adaptive information process at work when all things are going smoothly.


What happens when something goes wrong?


The alarm centre – the amygdala – lights up when it senses a threat of some kind. That might be trauma with a capitol T – such as experiences of violence, a car crash etc. and also trauma with a little T – such as repeated emotional injuries, such as constant criticism, overwhelming feelings of disconnect etc.


In these instances, it can be the case that the amygdala is so flooded with alarm – whether through a major incident, or a constant drip-drip of negative feedback – that it gets overwhelmed, and the regular process of AIP is halted – something like a faulty computer chip stopping the processing pathway of information. The amygdala does not have a sense of ‘time’ – that ability to sense time evolved in the human brain much later – so that explains why when reminded of certain events, or familiar negative emotions are elicited they feel totally fresh, undiminished by time – the amygdala lights up all over again in alarm. The neural pathway of the ‘signal’ isn’t allowed to process to the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex and thereby be ‘processed’ and completed. Instead, it spins around within the amygdala causing ongoing alarm and distress.


So what do we do?


EMDR therapy is targeted at getting an understanding of the original trauma – big t or little t – and taking some of the ‘charge’ out of it, in order that it can then trickle on its journey to be stored as a memory and then made sense of, as the person finally starts to make sense of it. That part of the therapy is like most others – history taking, getting an understanding of the influences and demands of your life, filtering down to highlight which specific components may be causing you distress or confusion. This stage takes time as its important to explore sensitively and at the appropriate speed needed by the client – there needs to be time for a therapeutic alliance to form – developing trust between the client and the therapist.


As the nature – the shape, the size, the colour, of the trauma emerges, we then seek to restore the natural healing process of the brain by gently unpicking the knot of the trauma so to speak. That might be as gentle as taking associated components of the trauma, examining them, and making them available to the normal neural pathway of data processing – making a more comfortable sense of them. Eventually of course, the aim is to get to the heart of the issue, but at a time when the client has built their own sense of resilience and strength – and that can take time – but that timing is essential to their well-being.


One of the central components of EMDR is the desensitisation process – and that’s where we see the therapist inviting the client to follow with their eyes the therapist’s fingers as they move side to side. The theory here is that the eye movement integrates both hemispheres of the brain which assists the processing of information coming into the brain – and is thought to be the reason for the natural occurrence of rapid eye movement during sleep – as the brain processes the days data to see what it wants to digest and benefit from and what can be discarded. Other means of connecting the two hemispheres of the brain may be used – such as the butterfly hug, or tapping for instance, but the eye movement is perhaps most commonly known.


Once the AIP pathway is repaired or strengthened then the trauma is more accessible to processing – to being made sense of, and then integrated into a more emotionally balanced life. There will always be threats to us that we need to be alert to – and there will be lessons learnt from your own personal trauma – but these are processed and digested to a level that will then serve the client, rather than constantly overwhelm them.


If this is something you may be interested in exploring then drop me a line, arrange a free 30 minute consultation and lets talk!.

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