eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing or EMDR  

If something traumatic has happened to you (whether it be a car accident, abuse or something seemingly less significant like being humiliated), the memory of your experience may come back into your mind, forcing you to re-live the original event with the same intensity of feeling, as though it is taking place in the present moment.

These experiences may present themselves as flashbacks, intrusive thoughts or nightmares and are thought to occur because the mind was simply too overwhelmed during the event to process what was going on.

As a result, these unprocessed memories and the accompanying sights, sounds, thoughts and feelings are stored in the brain in 'raw' form, where they can be accessed each time we experience something that triggers a recollection of the original event.

While it isn't possible to erase these memories, the process of Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR) can alter the way these traumatic memories are stored; making them easier to manage and causing you less distress.

how I work best with EMDR

I tend to work best with clients who want to experience EMDR within a longer term talking therapeutic relationship. If you want to work short term on specific, one-off issues (e.g a car crash or similar one-off event) I am happy to refer you to a colleague.

what is EMDR?

EMDR is used to treat a wide range of psychological difficulties or traumas, such as direct or indirect experiences of violence, accidents or natural disaster resulting in PTSD. EMDR therapy can also be effective in addressing more prolonged, low-grade distress that originates in shock or loss in adult life and/or issues experienced during childhood. EMDR has been recommended by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Increasingly, EMDR therapy is also being used for the treatment of other issues including:

  • depression
  • performance anxiety
  • phobias and fears
  • anxiety
  • low self-esteem

Reported benefits of EMDR include:

  • A reduction in re-experiencing trauma memories.
  • Feeling more able to cope with and manage trauma memories without needing to avoid potential triggers.
  • Feeling more able to engage in and enjoy pleasurable activities and relationships.
  • Reduced feelings of stress, anxiety, irritation and hypervigilance - allowing you to rest well, address pressure and/or conflict and go about your daily business without feeling fearful and prone to panic.
  • Reduced feelings of isolation, hopelessness and depression.
  • A boost in self-confidence and self-esteem.
how does EMDR work?

When traumatic events occur, the body's natural cognitive and neurological coping mechanisms can be overwhelmed and subsequently the memory is inadequately processed and stored in an isolated network.

The goal of EMDR therapy is to properly process these traumatic memories, reducing their impact and helping to develop coping mechanisms. 

what can I expect from an EMDR therapy session?

The goal of EMDR is to reduce distress in the shortest period of time using a comprehensive approach with therapeutic protocols and procedures. There are different phases in EMDR therapy:

During the initial phase you will be asked about your history, including what kind of distress you are experiencing and what kind of support you have. Getting to know you in this way will help us determine whether or not EMDR is the best course of action for you.

We may spend some time going through relaxation exercises where appropriate (these may include guided meditations or breathing techniques) to use during the treatment and during times of stress outside of your sessions. 

We may then go on to target specific distressing memories with eye movements or other forms of left-right stimulation such as taps or sounds. To start with you will be asked to select an image to represent the event and then to think about positive and negative thoughts, the amount of distress you feel and where you feel it in your body. Your therapist will then use bilateral eye movements or tapping in a series of 'sets' lasting around 25 seconds. After each set, you will be asked for feedback on your experience. Your therapist may also ask you to recall the orginal memory and ask you how it seems to you now. This will continue until your distress has cleared (or is reduced as much as possible) and you are experiencing more positive thoughts and feelings.

The next phase is known as closure and it offers you time to feel calm again using the relaxation exercises you learnt at the beginning of the session. The final phase is called re-evaluation - and this is effectively the first step in your next session. This phase will see you and your therapist working together to consider how you are coping and whether or not you need to address the same memory as last time or if you are able to move on to something different.

how will I feel after my session? 

The nature of EMDR means that after your session the treatment will continue to be active in your awareness. This means that you may find yourself thinking about the thoughts you focused on during your session and you may continue to feel the same emotions you experienced during your session. To help you through this process, allow yourself time and space to relax after an EMDR session and use the relaxation techniques you have learnt. Make sure you discuss your feelings with your therapist in your next session. While everyone is different, over time these feelings will generally become less intense and many people say they feel a strong sense of relief after their sessions.