What is EMDR? (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)

EMDR is an evidence-based psychotherapeutic treatment approach originally developed by Francine Shapiro in the United States in 1987. Over the ensuing 20+ years numerous controlled studies have shown that EMDR is successful in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and can reduce the symptoms of anxiety, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and flashbacks associated with this condition. It is recommended in NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) guidelines as one of the treatments for PTSD. EMDR is a complex method of psychotherapy which integrates different therapeutic approaches such as CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) and Psychodynamic Theory, and combines them with eye movements or other forms of bilateral stimulation. EMDR is effective in the treatment of trauma based disorders due to sexual abuse, childhood neglect, road traffic accidents and violence. EMDR is also successful in treating other psychological and emotional difficulties that arise due to adverse life experiences such as self-esteem issues, phobias, performance anxiety and other trauma related issues. 


How Does EMDR Work?

While researchers are still investigating the specific physiological changes that occur in the brain during EMDR, they believe it has something to do with activating parts of the brain responsible for processing and integrating memories. The assumption is that this involves a similar process to that which occurs during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleeping. The theoretical model underlying EMDR is termed the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) System. The AIP model suggests that our mind and body are always striving towards healing and resolution, and given the right support or activation, the body’s own natural healing ability will heal itself of negative emotions and psychological problems; much like a broken bone will heal itself when held in place. 


'Ordinary' life events seem to be processed into our memories and become an integrated part of our life stories. When a trauma, adverse life experience, or any negative belief about oneself or the world overwhelms the person, it seems to upset the balance of the brain's information processing system, in essence the event remains unprocessed in the brain. This imbalance prevents the negative event from becoming an ordinary memory and the traumatic event or negative belief seems to get locked in the nervous system and body with the original picture, sounds, thoughts, and feelings. The eye movements, sounds, or taps used in EMDR seem to activate the body’s innate healing system to allow the brain to process the negative experience. 


How Many Sessions Do I Need?

The number of sessions and length of treatment required in EMDR therapy depends on the complexity of the issues being dealth with. Generally, the more isolated the incident being treated, the shorter number of sessions are required. The more numerous or complex the issues, the longer the treatment.


What Can I Expect During an EMDR Session?

Some people experience a high level of emotional and physical sensations that accompany the distressing unresolved memories that are being reprocessed. EMDR does not cause these sensations, rather it is your own body and brain "digesting" and releasing the old memory in its attempt to heal and integrate itself. Just as when you cut your finger your body works to heal itself, so it is with emotional and psychological wounds. For some people, other material, in the forms of memories, thoughts, flashbacks, feelings, and dreams may continue to emerge between sessions. This is normal, and will be addressed in the following therapy session.


EMDR is a structured, client-centered approach, and it is you that are always in control. EMDR is not hypnosis and you are aware of what is happening at all times. 

If you have any questions or concerns please contact me to discuss them. 


Further information is available at EMDR's main website www.emdr.com  or at various other EMDR websites: www.emdria.org  



You can also contact EMDR UK & Ireland Association at www.emdrassociation.org.uk


EMDR Practitioners

Shawn Katz - Fiveways

Other Available Therapies
Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy
Group Psychotherapy
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing)

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