How EMDR can help to heal the past

Eye movement desensitisation and re-processing (EMDR) allows a person to process an emotional experience that they usually have had difficulty talking about.

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Eye movement desensitisation and re-processing (EMDR) is a therapy method used to treat a variety of mental health conditions including trauma, addiction and anxiety as well as other emotional conditions.

Natalie Smith, Counselling Psychologist at Priory Wellbeing Centre Birmingham discusses the treatment and how it can help to manage distressing memories and reduce cravings in addictions.

Explaining EMDR

So, what happens during EMDR?

During EMDR therapy, bilateral stimulation (right/left eye movement), tactile stimulation (touch) or sound is used to repeatedly activate the opposite sides of the brain, releasing emotional experiences that are 'trapped' in the nervous system. This helps the neurophysiological system - the basis of the mind and body connection - to free itself of ‘blockages’, allowing it to re-connect. It is one of the most effective methods for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as seen within several scientific research studies.

What are the common results following on from EMDR?

All in all, EMDR allows a person to process an emotional experience that they have had difficulty talking about. Experience has shown that following EMDR treatment, the person can develop the ability to talk about their trauma more freely, and in a way that may have proved difficult in the past. Most importantly, EMDR can remove the stress surrounding the traumatic event, allowing the once traumatic and emotionally difficult memory to heal and, in time, to repair.

EMDR and addictions

More recently, EMDR has been used within addiction treatment. Addiction to a substance or behaviour is often the result of many different factors, including the repression of traumatic memories as well as the feelings linked to the memories. EMDR, along with addiction protocol treatment, helps the person become able to tolerate and manage distressing memories or feelings. This then helps to reduce cravings and triggers by numbing the negative emotions associated with the addictive behaviour, and in turn enables the re-processing of those memories into something more positive.

Why do negative emotions need to be addressed?

Traumatic memories can cause both psychological and physiological repercussions. The physical and mental effects of memories can be extreme and may include depression, eating disorders and self-destructive behaviours.

Negative experiences, feelings and reactions to a traumatic event, ranging from shame, guilt, resentment, anxiety and depression, can have a vast impact on a person’s life. These feelings and experiences can cause a person to feel distressed and uncomfortable and may have an overall impact on how they function in their day-to-day life.

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