Our approaches to working with trauma
MEET in Oxford stands for Making EMDR and Energy Therapies more accessible in Oxfordshire.
EMDR is Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing, an approach recommended by NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. Energy Psychotherapy integrates energy psychology methods into psychotherapeutic practice.
Both approaches facilitate healing through an understanding of the impact of trauma on the body. If you are involved in a distressing event, it is common to feel overwhelmed. The brain is unable to process what has happened and the memory seems to become ‘frozen’ so that when you recall that memory, you also re-experience what you saw, heard, smelled, tasted or felt. The memories may be so distressing that you avoid thinking about the event in order to avoid the disturbing feelings.
The connectedness of mind and body are clear when someone receives an emotional shock and turns pale or shakes in response to alarming news. Both EMDR and Energy Psychotherapies work with the mind-body connection alongside talking psychotherapy. You may be happy to work with either approach or have a preference for one or the other.
What is EMDR and how does it work?
EMDR uses alternating left-right stimulation of the brain to:
- reprocess the memory so it is less intense;
- desensitise you to the memory’s emotional impact so you can think about it without experiencing such strong feelings.
You work with the therapist to identify a particular problem or event. As you focus on this, you move your eyes from side to side (or the therapist may suggest a different right-left alternating stimulation such as a tap on each hand). These side-to-side sensations seem to stimulate the blocked information-processing system. As the processing takes place, the distressing memories lose their intensity, so they are less disturbing and more like 'ordinary' memories – a part of your story, not the story that defines you. The effect may be similar to that which occurs naturally during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep when your eyes rapidly move from side to side as you process information from the day.
You can find more information about EMDR on the EMDR Association UK website including this 10 minute video from the EMDR International Association.
What is Energy Psychotherapy and how does it work?
Energy Psychotherapy integrates energy psychology, a collection of mind-body approaches, into western psychotherapy. It is based on our understanding of the relationship between your thoughts, emotions, sensations & behaviours, and known bioenergy systems - you may have heard of chakras (as used in yoga) or meridians (as used in acupuncture).
Trauma encoded in our physical bodies is released by gently stimulating the body’s own energy system while focusing on an issue. Imagine trauma as a weave of memories, feelings and behaviours that come together to create a loosely woven cloth which collapses as each thread is gently pulled from it, one at a time.
One example of an energy psychotherapy approach to working with trauma is Emotional Freedom Technique, which uses tapping on meridian points to stimulate your energy system. There is an introduction in this video.
Energy psychotherapy is a particularly gentle way of working with trauma and does not require that you relive traumatic memories. In addition, your therapist will help you to learn some self-help techniques that you can use on your own.
You can find more information on the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology website.