What is EMDR?


EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. This is a type of therapy that is recognised by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) to help with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and it can be used for a number of other difficulties, including;

  • Trauma (including PTSD and complex trauma)
  • Low self-esteem
  • Phobias
  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)
  • Depression
  • Chronic pain
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Panic Disorder

This is a very structured therapeutic approach and tends to require less sessions than most other types of therapy. This may be between 4 and 6 sessions for a single traumatic event or more if there are multiple events that need to be processed. It is a type of therapy that can resolve distress associated with upsetting thoughts and memories. It aims to ‘unstick’ and reprocess memories associated with anxieties and beliefs that currently impact on someone.

EMDR uses something called bilateral stimulation. This means stimulating both sides of the brain by using of eye movements, noises, or hand taps/movements, at the same time as holding a memory in mind. This type of processing is extremely powerful, and it taps into the body and brain’s natural healing process.

The sessions for EMDR are extremely structured and often do not involve discussing many details about the memories linked to the current difficulty. The initial sessions are assessment sessions, where you will explore memories linked to current difficulties to create a list of which memories and beliefs will need to be processed and which situations you would like to approach differently. You will also choose how you would like to think about the memories and yourself in the future. These earlier sessions may also include learning techniques to help you to manage your anxiety or dissociation, as it is important to have these skills before the next phase. Sessions following the assessment ones will mostly involve working together to process memories by using the bilateral stimulation techniques described above.

If you are unsure whether EMDR can be useful for what you need help with, please contact us and we can talk about whether this might be the best therapy for you.

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