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EMDR Eye Movement Desensitation and Reprocessing

Founded and created by Francine Shapiro in the late nineties, EMDR uses the biological and neurological processes occurring within humans during the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep, though the therapeutic approach adopted at JSA follows strict protocols and ethics and does not require or involve any change in the consciousness of our clients.

EMDR involves stimulation of both sides of the brain’s hemisphere (known as bilateral stimulation) in terms of what the brain is tasked to do. Bilateral stimulation can be created by our therapists in many ways, including eye movements, sound through headphones, tapping or tactile buzzpads.

The EMDR process is quick and is highly effective at freeing clients from some of the most horrendous unprocessed trauma that affects their lives on a daily basis. Such traumas can be classed as ‘single event’ traumas, such as being involved in or witness to an event such as physical accident, health-related emergency, assault, or public incident. In these cases, the brain will not store the whole picture of what happened. As a functioning organ, the brain fragments traumatic memories and does not commit the whole picture of what happened to long term memory. Our therapists often use the analogy of the memory being broken up into pieces of a jigsaw, with these pieces then becoming ‘scattered’ out across the nervous system. Often, as with a jigsaw, some pieces will clump together to give away more of a picture, but in all cases there will be pieces missing, and as the brain attempts to create the whole picture, memory clusters will be triggered and can lead the client to suffer flashbacks, nightmares, compulsive behaviours, avoidance, hypervigilance, intrusive images, and physiological responses. Even something as simple as a smell can trigger these responses, and it can be incredibly overwhelming for the client. EMDR is highly effective at dealing with all of this.

Our therapists at JSA are sensitive to the needs of our clients and apply EMDR within each individual’s zone of tolerance, which allows us to gradually, safely and ethically widen a client’s tolerance to memories of the event that induced the trauma in the first instance. We do this by adopting a practice of continuous evaluation throughout treatment. We offer EMDR in particular to those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and have worked with even the most anxious of clients. At JSA, we have treated conditions for the most chronic and complex traumas; most recently in having worked with survivors of the MEN Arena bombing.

A minimum of 8 sessions is recommended with EMDR, and clients can self-refer if they wish. EMDR is also an NHS recognised trauma treatment and is a highly effective therapy for chronic pain management as well as depression, anxiety (both social and general), phobia, sexual trauma, anger management and addiction. Our view of EMDR is that it is an essential tool in treating the brain as an organ. An analogy could be to state that if you have broken your leg, even after the bone has healed, you would still require physiotherapy in order to fully recover from the event. EMDR works in exactly the same way with survivors of trauma, and is suitable for both adults and young people.

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