Mel B is Using flashing Lights to Cope with Trauma. Is EMDR Therapy Effective?


Mel B, a singer, is watching flashing lights in an attempt to deal with Trauma. Although Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing was previously controversial, it has now been approved by NHS.

Ben suffered a breakdown which was triggered by someone who attempted to get too close to him on a crowded train late in 2016. This brought him a vivid memory of childhood trauma he experienced in 1990. Before the incidence, Ben had lived a successful life. He performed well in school, garnered a career and was happily married with a family. He was earlier this year referred by his local hospital to trauma clinic and started a psychotherapy treatment, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.


According to him, it sounded “like witchcraft” and he kept wondering how it could work. In this therapy, you are supposed to sit in front of flashing lights to improve your condition, he explained.

Mel B recently highlighted EMDR, and it is said that she is undergoing treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Explaining about her diagnosis, Mel was trying to self-treat her condition by indulging in sex and alcohol. According to her, she is still struggling but if she can shine a light on the issue of pain, she can do anything possible to help with her condition. According to her, EMDR has really helped her.

How EDMR Works

In reference to Robin Logie, a clinical psychologist and former president of the EDMR Association, this therapy works by assisting the brain to process traumatic memories. It is commonly helps in treating PTSD although it can help for other conditions like anxiety, depression, phobias, and addictions.

Robin explains that the process tries to get a person to think about a specific moment. For instance, with a road traffic accident – just a moment before it occurs. A person is asked to describe his/her negative belief they may have about themselves. This can be something like “I feel unsafe.” The person is asked the sort of emotion that seems to go with that and specify exactly where it feels in their body.

During the Therapy

When a person is doing this, s/he is requested to move their eyes sideways, either by following flashing lights or a therapist’s finger. Alternatively, one should hold a device that pulses in one hand. Each set is repeated 20 to 30 times per session. According to Robin, this method makes the memory to become less distressing. He explains that this process transforms the memory that once made you feel scared or anxious, into a memory that won’t trigger an emotional response.

A person will start becoming less emotional and feel more rational about the traumatic incidence. They will understand that they haven’t been safe, but now they are safe. According to Ben, the early stages of treatment felt like the beginning of the event. He further explained that the entire EDMR process seems like a controlled flashback. Ben says that he wasn’t ready to relive the experience. With continued treatment, Ben says that the memories became more vivid and detailed. His condition seemed to be deteriorating at first before he started improving. He is still undergoing treatment and says the process has been genuinely helpful.

The Origin of EDMR

Francine Shapiro is an American psychologist who accidentally discovered EDMR in the late 1980s. She realized that her eye movement helped to reduce negative emotions while looking at things on a stroll through the park.

According to Melanie Temple, EMDR had been controversial and appeared as an outdated view. The consultant psychiatrist and EMDR consultant says that the therapy has the approval of the National Institute for Health Care Excellence.

No one can clearly explain how the EDMR works. One theory suggests that the eye movement mimics the rapid eye movement we experience while asleep. Temple says that they are aware that it works on the information-processing models within the brain, but they can’t describe how.

Temple also states that they don’t know how cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) works, and it the same for all therapies.

In reference to Logie, you don’t require a lot of preparation if you experience a simple one-off trauma in adult life. However, you need more preparation if you had multiple traumatic incidences in childhood. And the therapy may take longer.

Before EDMR Therapy

Prior to undergoing EDMR therapy, you are taught relaxation techniques and how to strengthen support structures in your life.

According to Claudia Herbert, any form of therapy can be re-traumatizing if it is not properly used. The clinical psychologist and managing director of the Oxford Development Center who has authored Overcoming Traumatic Stress insist that such a therapy should be carried out by a trained and experienced person.

Not a Magical Fix

Although EDMR is powerful and effective, it is not a magical quick fix, Temple notes. Ben has undergone more than 30 sessions and it is unclear when he will stop.

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