What is EMDR?

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) therapy was developed by Dr Francine Shapiro, an American Clinical Psychologist in the 1980’s.

What can EMDR help with?

EMDR was originally developed to help people overcome traumatic events and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It has been found to be effective in treating difficulties arising from both single events (such as traffic accidents, natural disaster, rape and work place accidents) and multiple traumas (such as childhood sexual/physical abuse and neglect, war related traumas). It also now has a growing evidence base for anxiety, phobias and chronic health conditions where the trigger was trauma. EMDR is effective for both adults and children.

EMDR is recommended in NICE guidance for the treatment of trauma.

How EMDR works

When a traumatic event occurs, the memory of that events is sometimes not processed in the brain in the way it should; it gets stuck of sorts. This means when the person thinks about the event, or a memory is triggered by something that reminds them of the distressing event, it can feel like it is happening all over again, with the same sounds, sights and smells. This can often lead to individuals avoiding certain things to try to prevent these memories being triggered. Whilst understandable, this does not help the memories to be processed as they should be.

EMDR works by aiding the processing of the memory into the part of the brain that allows the memory to become part of the past and less distressing. This is achieved by alternating left-right stimulation of the brain with eye movements, sounds or taps during EMDR, which is completely painless.

The EMDR Association website has more details regarding how EMDR works if you would like to read more about it.