EMDR

I am a Europe Accredited EMDR Practitioner, meaning that my clinical experience in this therapy has been assessed and validated by the registering body EMDR Europe.

What is EMDR?

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) is a comprehensive, evidence-based, internationally recognised psychotherapy used to help people heal from distressing events and associated problems like upsetting thoughts or images, nightmares, emotional distress, flashbacks, depression or anxiety.

EMDR helps rewire and heal unhelpful patterns rooted in the past that continue to impact on your life in the present.

What can EMDR help with?

EMDR is recognised by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), National Health Service (NHS), and the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

EMDR can be used for a variety of psychological traumas including natural disasters, accidents, abuse, assaults, war, traumatic losses, and attachment (relationship) related trauma.

EMDR is not just a therapy for major traumatic events, and can also be effectively used for people impacted by the distressing challenges that life throws at us – for example, complicated grief, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, addictions, chronic pain, medically unexplained symptoms, phobias, panic attacks, and unhelpful relationship patterns. EMDR is also fitting if you have tried talking therapies in the past but may not have necessarily found it helpful, or only found temporary relief.

Below is a brief video detailing the rationale for EMDR.

How does EMDR work?

When you have been involved in a traumatic event / disturbing adverse life experience, you may feel overwhelmed and you may not be able to fully process what is going on. The memory of the event can have a “stuck” quality, and therefore remains vivid and intense.

The intensity of distress and what you heard, smelled and saw during the event can be re-experienced, as though it is happening again.

Some people may have strong feelings of anxiety and / or bodily symptoms (e.g. heart racing, sweating, shortness of breath, feeling numb, frozen, or dizzy) without re-experiencing or recalling the disturbing event.

EMDR aims to reprocess the memory properly to reduce the emotional intensity and associated anxiety. During therapy sessions you are supported to recall a traumatic event / emotionally disturbing life experience in brief doses and at the same time receive bilateral stimulation. This means receiving stimuli in a rhythmic left-right pattern.

For example, bilateral stimulation could involve:

  • moving your eyes from side to side
  • tapping movements on different sides of your body
  • tones you hear through one ear then the other wearing headphones 

EMDR helps to undo the “stuckness” in the neural networks and the maladaptive encoding of the memory. EMDR facilitates the reprocessing of this disturbing memory as an ordinary memory, supporting the integration of the memory, adaptive information processing, and the creation of new neural networks.

The effect is believed to be similar to what occurs naturally during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, when our eyes move rapidly from side to side as the brain processes the events of the day.

Some research suggests that EMDR is effective because concentrating on another task whilst processing a distressing memory taxes particular parts of our brain referred to as the working memory. When the brain is not giving its full attention to processing the memory, the disturbing memory starts to become less vivid. This helps create distance from the memory and reduces associated distress.

EMDR is an eight phased complex therapy and has a three pronged approach focusing on processing:

  • past events that have laid the foundation
  • present situations that cause distress or anxiety
  • future templates dealing with potentially distressing or anxiety provoking situations in a more adaptive manner

EMDR is not a form of hypnosis and you remain fully conscious, alert and in control at all times. EMDR does not require you to speak in detail about what has happened to you, thus allowing for more privacy, where you can share as much or as little as you want about the content of memories and associations that come up for you.

Number of sessions

Whilst EMDR is not a miracle cure, EMDR can produce rapid and powerful results. Research has found that EMDR can significantly reduce PTSD symptoms in just two or three sessions and the effect is long lasting (e.g. Ironson et al., 2002; Scheck et al., 1998). People who have experienced single-event traumas, such as an assault or car accident, can find relief and benefit from a short course of therapy. People who have experienced multiple traumas and poor treatment as children would usually need more sessions.

I also offer intensive EMDR therapy with increased length and frequency of appointments, which can help you achieve your goals more quickly.

Adapted from EMDR Association UK and EMDR Europe.