Case Study EMDR Treatment Rob

Case Study: EMDR Treatment – Rob

Rob, a senior Detective within the UK Police Force was diagnosed with Complex PTSD as a result of the traumatic incidents he experienced in the line of duty. In this inspiring account, Rob opens up about his journey with EMDR treatment, highlighting his initial hesitations and ultimate triumph as he persevered and emerged with newfound strength.

“I was a senior Detective with a Police Force in the UK, and therefore responsible for heading up serious crime investigations. This role involved complex decision making, and often having to identify the ‘least worst’ option for the team and people involved in the investigation. I had begun to feel a significant amount of pressure for about 18 months before “cracking” and seeking help.  By this point my mental health was in tatters. I was withdrawn, second guessing myself in every decision, and suffering from anxiety, nervousness and feelings of desperation. I was permanently tired and unable to sleep.

When I sought help through work, I was offered the option of taking some time off, or continuing to be operational. I had around 25 year’s service, and felt almost duty bound to keep going. I was well supported by family and close colleagues, so proceeded with caution. My work appointed therapist suggested Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR) as a potential therapy, and they explained the process and science behind it. I was desperately unhappy at this point, so decided to go ahead with it. We debrief significant incidents at work, but this was the first formal help or treatment I had received.

My initial thoughts were that this couldn’t work. I’ve been taught to be clinical, and trust evidence. But I thought I needed to trust the process, and “give it a go”. My friends and family were pleased I was seeking support, but had no idea I’d been struggling. They had no previous experience with EMDR, and were all sceptical of how it could work.

I had 6 sessions of EMDR in total. The first assessment session was spent with me explaining how I felt, how long this had been for and what I was hoping to achieve from it. My “homework” was to write down a couple of lines about any incidents or memories that the therapist described as triggering, or anything that caused emotional discomfort. Having done 25 years front line in a Force area with few first responders, I’d been to some grim incidents and had four pages of A4 to wade through.

The first “live” EMDR session started at the beginning chronologically speaking, as she explained that sometimes when a person learns this process, they either start almost automatically going through and reprocessing things, or they start to see things that had previously hurt them, in a new light. The first session saw tears, frustration and some resistance to go with it on my part. It was awful. I’d been diagnosed as suffering from C-PTSD and depression and it affected my state of mind approaching this treatment. Despite the therapist’s best efforts, I couldn’t get into it, and really felt let down and disappointed that the help I’d been desperate for, hadn’t worked. 

The therapist reassured me of how it’s a journey, and sometimes the process takes time to get into it for the client, and as work had paid for 6 sessions, (they were a private therapist), I persisted with the further sessions.  I think a level of trust between the client and therapist is essential if the client is a cynical old ‘got’ like me, as the method sounds so unconventional!

The second session was really tough, as I started to get the process and lean into it. This brought some of my trauma back to the fore and my emotions were all over the place for days. In this second and the third session we covered more incidents and I felt lousy at home. It stirred up a load of things I had not faced for years and I had my faith shaken in the process. I told the therapist this and she said it was within normal responses, and urged me to stick with it.

However, during the fourth session, the penny dropped, I started to go through the incidents in more detail, and cover more per session. I was able to drop into the “zone” much quicker and cover incidents without the sickening feeling, and I started to feel alive again at home, be more in control, less reactive emotionally and more settled and effective at work. I could be more true to myself without losing it, and make more sound and rational complex decisions.

By session six, I felt far more in control, aware and grounded. She taught me how to manage my triggers, and responses, and I felt so energised afterwards it was amazing. What I learnt from this process helped me my personal life my work, and subsequent cancer treatment.  I still get the odd trigger, but I’m stronger now.

For me, the EMDR was initiated by the therapist tapping the sides of my knees.

Since my help and EMDR treatment, I started helping others with symptoms of stress and work imbalances. I started a therapy dog project with a colleague, and became a mental health and wellbeing mentor for colleagues. Personally, I feel stronger for having been through the experience, and much kinder to myself. I now know what my triggers are, and set boundaries so I don’t go back down that tunnel again.

My personal advice would be to be proactive. If you see changes in emotions, behaviours, triggers or even sleep, be honest with yourself. Talk about it with someone trustworthy at an early stage. If you’re unfortunate enough to be past this stage, then seek professional help via your GP or NHS. Public Service/Military often provide in-house support which signposts the client to professional and independent support.

Lastly, while the struggle can be incredibly lonely, there are plenty of people out there who will talk and offer support. It starts with a single conversation.

Rob’s experience serves as an inspiration to others facing similar struggles, reminding them that there is hope beyond the pain. His story underscores the importance of seeking professional help and never giving up on the journey towards recovery.

By sharing his narrative, Rob not only sheds light on the challenges of living with Complex PTSD but also offers a ray of hope to those who may be enduring similar battles. Through his resilience and determination, Rob’s story becomes a beacon of strength and encouragement for anyone navigating the path of healing.

You can find out more about EMDR here, including more about what EMDR actually is, how effective it can be, what happens in an EMDR session, things to know before starting EMDR therapy, how EMDR works, EMDR for children, and EMDR for Complex PTSD

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