What do clients say about their experiences of EMDR in the research literature?

EMDR is talked about in a transformative manner. There are conditions, which need to be present for EMDR to work, and connections exist between the EMDR method and therapist as agents of change. For practitioners, a pluralistic approach, incorporating the EMDR method could be used to carry out tasks in therapy to achieve therapeutic goals based on the client’s requirements. In research, the paucity of qualitative studies could be addressed by engaging counselling psychologists, as scientific enquirers and artistic therapists, to expand research into clients’ experiences of EMDR to improve therapeutic practice and treatment programmes. Areas suggested for further qualitative experiential research include adverse effects, tolerability and withdrawal from therapy; EMDR for specific populations, such as combat veterans where the quantitative evidence is equivocal; and EMDR therapy practised in inpatient settings.


EMDR Therapy

The effect of trauma

The overall effect of trauma can be described as “loss of sense of aliveness, motivation, excitement, and purpose.”

In brain scans of 18 chronic PTSD patients (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), the researchers discovered something startling: there was almost no activation of the “self-perceiving” areas of the brain compared to non-traumatized subjects: the medial prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate, parietal cortex, and insula were dark.

Their conclusion was that “in response to their trauma and in coping with the terror that lingered long afterward, these patients had learned to shut down the brain areas that mediate the visceral feelings and emotions that accompany and define terror.”

Traumatized people often lose their sense of purpose and direction because they cannot match with themselves what they really want, as defined by the most basic sensations in their bodies, which are the basis for emotions like desire and passion. In some cases, the loss of self-awareness is so profound that sufferers can’t even recognize themselves in the mirror.

Chronic Stress

When you’re chronically stressed or overwhelmed you tend to keep reacting in the same emotional way over and over. This conditions your nervous system to potentially (mis)read your environment based on past experiences, and the associations and perceptions you’ve formed around those experiences. It also trains your mind to automatically think more negative thoughts and have more pessimistic expectations. Your nervous system, being the intelligent processor and gatekeeper, diligently keeps seeking and running those old-patterned programs and subconscious emotional memories over and over recreating the same or similar experiences, and reactions in an attempt to match the old pattern. This creates a vicious cycle that can leave you feeling exhausted and drained. Most of this happens underneath your conscious and voluntary level of awareness.

Stress is unavoidable

Stress is unavoidable and can, under the right conditions, even be beneficial. We can’t escape stress, but we can befriend it. We can learn to control our stress response and channel that energy in constructive and creative ways. If you’re experiencing chronic stress or feeling constantly on edge chances are you’ve got an overactive sympathetic nervous system. This is the branch of your nervous system that dictates the fight or flight response. It can take a few tweaks and some new habits but with consistency and willingness, you can transform chronic stress and use it to your advantage. This means more well-being, mental health, physical resilience, inner calm, insight, creativity, and healing.