What is EMDR and how does it work? A personal experience

By Alyson Hazlewood

EMDR, life coaching, AniOne of the many great things about New Life is the number of different therapeutic modalities on offer, ranging from refuge recovery for addiction, the Hakomi method, TRE, Dance Mandala, EFT, Art therapy, core process psychotherapy and more.
We are currently very fortunate to have Ani Konchog on the Life Coach team again this year. Ani Konchog is a Western nun ordained in the Tibetan tradition. She is a student of Pema Chodrun and B. Alan Wallace and a trained Psychologist and EMDR Practitioner. Having had the benefit of several life coaching sessions with Ani Konchog utilising EMDR, I thought I would describe my experience of this method for anyone who is unfamiliar with it.

What is EMDR and how does it work?

EMDR is the acronym for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing; an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the rapid treatment of trauma, and post traumatic stress in over 20 controlled studies. It has also proven very effective in the treatment of the following conditions:

  • Panic attacks
  • Complicated grief
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Disturbing memories
  • Phobias
  • Pain disorders
  • Performance anxiety
  • Stress reduction
  • Addictions
  • Sexual and/or Physical abuse
  • Body dysmorphic disorders
  • Personality Disorders

The guided eye movements during an EMDR session can reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts

Neuroscience has demonstrated that a traumatic event can be ‘frozen in time’ in the body systems memory, rather than narrative memory; so that when the event is subsequently brought to mind, one relives the images, sounds, and feelings of the original event with a similar intensity. This can be extremely distressing, interfering with the way a person sees the world and the way they relate to other people.

EMDR is shown to have a direct effect on the way that the brain processes information. Similar to what occurs naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the guided eye movements can reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts, under certain conditions. Following a successful EMDR session, normal information processing is resumed, so you still remember the event, but it is significantly less upsetting.

One of the unusual features of EMDR is that you don’t necessarily have to discuss disturbing memories in detail

A typical EMDR session lasts from 60 to 90 minutes. The type of problem, life circumstances, and the amount of previous trauma will determine how many treatment sessions are necessary for each individual. After just three sessions, I felt that the intensity of certain traumatic childhood memories (and the subsequent negative self-beliefs that formed as a result of the experiences) had dropped from an 8 to a 2 (using a scale to rate the disturbance; with 0 being no disturbance, to 10, being the worst feeling you’ve ever had). I also noted a significant decrease in body tension after each session.

One of the unusual features of EMDR is that you don’t necessarily have to discuss disturbing memories in detail (which for some, can be re-traumatising). Some people may be comfortable, or even prefer, giving specifics, other people may want to present more of a general picture or outline.

“(…) our brains know how to heal themselves, and often without the use of medications”

Personally, what struck me about this treatment (and other somatic treatments such as TRE or EFT) is how intelligent the body-mind is. Neuroscience is only just beginning to understand that our brains -with the right guidance – know how to heal themselves, and often without the use of medications. One of the additional benefits of undergoing a therapy like EMDR in the New Life environment; is that one isn’t required to step out of the treatment room and back into the hectic bustle of city life. Here one has time, space and peace for the brain’s natural process to fully integrate.

Aly Hazlewood is a Writer, Beauty Editor and Make Up Artist from London, currently exploring new ways of living and being. She blogs at http://www.thetruthaboutbeauty.co.uk

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