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EMDR and Supporting Traumatised Clients

I have been a counsellor for over thirty years and during that time I have sustained my interest in helping people who have been traumatised. My work has included supporting family members where there has been a homicide, counselling adults abused as children for the NSPCC and clients referred by their insurance companies for personal injury claims.

As time went on I discovered the usefulness of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) but not all clients enjoy the ‘homework’ side of this approach – they want to recover from trauma and return to their normal lives. Traumatic experiences such as road traffic accidents and workplace injuries often mean that a person’s life is put on hold, with consequential loss of earnings, relationship problems and even the loss of homes.

To discover EMDR and incorporate it into my practice has been one of the best things that I have ever done in my work

As I am always on the lookout for approaches that can offer immediate support, I studied EMDR and became an Accredited EMDR Practitioner. The beauty of EMDR is that the amount of time spent in therapy can be reduced for clients, they do not have to do a lot of paperwork, which can be the case with CBT, and they can put into practice what they have learnt in the EMDR sessions right away. EMDR, along with CBT are the two evidence-based treatments for trauma that are recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). The NHS uses these NICE Guidelines. Where personal injury claims are being made, insurance companies are often advised by their medical consultants that the client should have CBT and/or EMDR.

So, what is EMDR?

Briefly, this therapeutic approach was developed by Doctor Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s and has been used with thousands of people globally. The basic premise is that the traumatic experience is held ‘frozen’ in parts of the brain, the more primitive area that is preverbal. EMDR helps to form a bridge through the brain’s neurotransmitters to the parts that can make a logical connection through language in order to defuse the physical and emotional intensity of the memories.

The most famous part of EMDR in practice is where the practitioner waves their fingers at a steady pace back and forth before the client’s eyes – bilateral stimulation. It can look weird! However, the effects of a properly conducted EMDR session can have deep and long-lasting effects. It is not hypnosis, it is not ‘brainwashing’ and clients do not have any memories erased; rather, the memories that had been traumatising begin to lose their intensity and impact on how the person feels, thinks and behaves.

To discover EMDR and incorporate it into my practice has been one of the best things that I have ever done in my work – I always use is the first, rather than last resort!

Jen Popkin is an Accredited EMDR Practitioner and BACP Senior Registered/Accredited Counsellor

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