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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Trauma and EMDR

When we experience a trauma, our ability to deal with stress can be thrown out of whack. The experience is stored in our consciousness in such a way that it is difficult to make use of our usual and otherwise well-functioning processing ability. 


Even if we know that the traumatic event happened back in time, it can be difficult to think about the trauma without the feelings and memories becoming overwhelming. The reactions linked to the memories can be just as strong as the reactions linked to the event itself. 

In trauma-focused forms of therapy such as EMDR, you work directly with memories. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and is particularly suitable for overwhelmingly negative emotional reactions. In EMDR  a combination of relaxation techniques and focusing on the memories is used to speed up recovery and reduce the intensity of reactions. In addition, EMDR integrates the use of various forms of brain stimulation such as flashing lights and/or sounds. In this way, it is easier for the brain to get more distance from phobic reactions, increased flexibility in mental images and access to other emotions. For a good demonstration of what EMDR entails, NRK has made a great episode which is available on their website, the clip starts from 16min 50sec.

EMDR is also used to help people deal with anxiety, depression, persistent grief reactions, reactions to physical illnesses, and many other conditions that are associated with strong emotions. At Psycholysis, you can get this type of trauma therapy in Oslo atBear.


Before the treatment, it may be a good idea to think through what you yourself want with the treatment, and what your goal is. If you manage to make some small changes in a positive direction during the waiting period, it is valuable. This could, for example, involve starting with gentle physical activity or something else that your therapist recommends.


The treatment starts with you talking to your therapist about yourself in an attempt to understand the background of the difficulties and how these are affecting your life now. If EMDR is considered to be a useful treatment approach, the therapist will explain the further procedure to you.


If you decide to continue treatment, you and the therapist will come up with a description of your problems that includes:


  • an image or an image that represents the traumatic event

  • your negative self-perception in relation to the event or events

  • how you wish you could think about yourself in relation to what happened (a positive perception)

  • the feelings that you associate with the event or events

  • how these feelings are felt in the body


Next, you should put a value on the degree of discomfort you feel, as well as how true you feel the positive self-concept is.


After the preparations described above, the actual processing phase of the treatment begins by using eye movements or another form of stimulation with sound, light or touch. 


A typical treatment session with EMDR takes between 60-90 minutes. During this part of the treatment, the therapist sits diagonally opposite you and quite close to you to be able to have an appropriate distance to your eyes with the finger movements.


It is difficult to predict how long an EMDR treatment will be. You may experience relief in symptoms after just 1-6 times. Alternatively, EMDR will be a method that your therapist will use as part of a longer course of therapy.


It is important that you and your therapist assess the need for further follow-up from, for example, your GP. If the symptoms disappear, it can be useful to establish new coping experiences, security and predictability in everyday life to maintain the positive changes. 


Due to their ailments, many have had challenges which have contributed to them avoiding situations and having a reduced quality of life. A focus on small things in life such as socialisation, a good circadian rhythm, positive activities and dietary habits can be examples of measures that are important to focus on after the end of treatment.

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