EMDR / EFT
“All people with PTSD should be offered a course of trauma-focused psychological treatment (trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy [CBT] or eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing [EMDR]). These treatments should normally be provided on an individual outpatient basis” (NICE guidelines [CG26] Published date: March 2005)
What is EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing)?
EMDR is recognised as being one of the most effective forms of therapeutic intervention for people suffering from trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Psychological trauma is common following a significant life event such as abuse, trauma, a serious accident, physical assault, witnessing horrific events but it is not something that has to be lived with.
Extensive research has demonstrated that EMDR can speed up the healing process following a traumatic experience and that the effects of treatment endure over time. Currently, EMDR treatment of post-traumatic stress disorders has been more thoroughly researched than any other form of psychological therapy. EMDR has been shown to be highly effective and it often works within a shorter period of time than other therapies.
EMDR is clinically proven, safe, effective and quick working treatment to deal with the psychological effects of negative events experienced. It is also helpful in the treatment of phobias, panic attacks and anxiety and has also been used successfully to enhance performance at work and in sports.
What is involved in the EMDR treatment?
EMDR usually takes place over 6 or less sessions with a qualified EMDR therapist (very occasionally more sessions will be required or different treatment options will be recommended). EMDR involves the client remembering the traumatic event while making eye movements from side to side to generate bilateral stimulation. This transforms the unprocessed memory into ordinary memory which can be filed away so that the client can bring the event to mind without experiencing distress. In most cases this will happen very rapidly. It does not require the client to talk about their experience the can merely replay the experience in their head like a video but some people do like to speak out loud as they are processing – either approach is acceptable.
The therapist may use a light (shown in the picture above) during treatment or place their hand on the hand of the person being treated.
To prepare a client for EMDR treatment the therapist will often teach them the use of EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) which can help to reduce stress and anxiety and enable the person to deal with the potential difficulties that may arise during the EMDR treatment. EFT involves teaching the client to stimulate a sequence of acupressure points by tapping on them in turn while focusing on a distressing memory or issue. Clients often come to a first session very fearful of the process and EFT is usually an effective way of alleviating this. The therapist will usually make a voice recording of instructions to enable the client to use the tapping procedure on their own and will use a computer programme which adds backing tracks to the recording including a Brainwave Entrainment track which has a powerful calming effect.
EFT and EMDR are both suitable for treating adults and children.
Open Secret EMDR/EFT service
The work of the EMDR/EFT service is based on the premise that the mind can heal itself much in the same way that the body heals physical injury. The body usually routinely manages everything we experience without us being aware that this is happening. When we are traumatised by an overwhelming event (and especially when this occurs repeatedly) our system becomes overloaded which can lead to these traumatic experiences becoming frozen or unprocessed. Such unprocessed memories and feelings are stored in the limbic system of the brain in a "raw" and emotional form, rather than in a verbal “story” mode. The limbic system maintains traumatic memories in an isolated memory network that is associated with emotions and physical sensations, and which are disconnected from the brain’s cortex where we use language to store memories.
The limbic system’s traumatic memories can be continually triggered when we experience events similar to the difficult experiences we have been through. Often the memory itself is long forgotten, but the painful feelings such as anxiety, panic, anger or despair are continually triggered in the present. Our ability to live in the present and learn from new experiences can therefore become inhibited.
The aim of therapy is to help create the connections between the brain’s memory networks, thus enabling it to process the traumatic memory in a natural way. A combination of innovative treatments are used to allow this processing to occur.
The service is currently available via our Falkirk office (but available to people out with the Falkirk area) and is available free of charge for survivors of abuse but we are working to expand the service to cover more areas of Scotland to find out more call us on 01324 630 100.
Impact of Event Scale
Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale
PTSD Symptom Checklist
Fred was referred to the EMDR/EFT service with a diagnosis of severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder related to episodes of sexual abuse as a child. These were single events, which occurred when he was aged 6 and 14. With the support of family Fred was able to put both events behind him and get on with his life. He did very well at school and went onto university. He began a career as a lecturer, he met his partner and became a father for the first time.
Shortly after his son was born however, life began to unravel as Fred became increasingly troubled by memories of the abuse, nightmares on a nightly basis and horrific flashbacks. In addition he was unable to let his son out of his sight and was terrified that he would also be abused. Intimacy with his partner disappeared and their relationship was beginning to break down.
Fred met with one of the counsellors at Open Secret and agreed to a referral to the EMDR service for treatment. Fred had 4 sessions with the therapist and 2 follow-up check-ups. At the first session Fred was introduced to EFT to help to manage symptoms and prepare him for EMDR. The first EMDR session focused on the sexual trauma, which occurred. Although the process was very distressing for Fred there was a reduction in his Subjective Units of Distress Scale regarding the incident from 10 out of 10 to 0 out of 10 and he could think about the memory without becoming upset. The therapist also worked with Fred to produce an audio program, combining EFT with Brain Entrainment. This essentially enabled Fred to continue to work at managing his symptoms on his own between sessions. His distress levels were reduced significantly by the end of the session. On his third visit Fred was offered Progressive Counting to deal with the second incidence of abuse this worked within 30 minutes.
By the beginning of week two Fred’s nightmares and flashbacks had decreased in frequency and intensity and his sleep had improved significantly, by week three he was free from nightmares, flashbacks and intrusive memories related to the first incident. By week four Fred reported no distress when he brought up the memory of the second incident, he was no longer troubled by the memory of either event, was now much calmer in relation to his son and the relationship with his partner was back to where it was prior to the onset of the PTSD symptoms. Fred was able to return to work and six week post treatment was continuing to function normally with no disturbance in relation to the traumatic events he had worked on.