Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an approach that helps people to overcome long term emotional distress to deal with past traumatic events that have gone unprocessed or processed in a negative way and consequently incorporated into an individual’s cognitive processes.. It is generally used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but can also successfully treat phobias, anxiety problems, grief and bereavement. It can also help us process unsettling or disturbing feelings arising out of unpleasant situations such as arguments. For example, if a person’s neuro-pathways mean that a particular trigger (visual or otherwise) creates a negative emotion or response, it is so automatic, that thinking differently is not always an option. Counselling can help them try to accept it and understand it but not overcome it. In the same way CBT strategies are unable to challenge the belief and encourage the person to think differently, because the choice to think differently is simply not there.

How does it work?

EMDR unblocks the memory, images, triggers and all other associated elements from a traumatic experience and enables the person to process them healthily. It is not hypnotherapy and it is not re-traumatising as the present day/here and now is maintained throughout the therapy sessions. It is based on the research that rapid eye movement (REM) naturally occurs when we sleep to process our thoughts and feelings. When we experience a traumatic event, we can overwhelm our brain and become unable to process the thoughts and feelings associated with the event. The negative disturbing memory stays with us and may result in long-term emotional problems. EMDR kick starts rapid eye movement and allows this natural process to resolve these negative memories.

What will happen in the EMDR session?

The therapist will help you identify the disturbing images, thoughts and feelings associated with your psychological problem. The images will not be difficult to identify as they usually occur as flashbacks, however the feelings and thoughts at the time can be more difficult. However, it is important to note that you will not be expected to talk in detail about the situation or event. The purpose of EMDR is help you manage your memories and to not feel as disturbed or upset by them in the future.

Using the information you have provided and rapid eye moments you will begin to kick start the desensitisation of your emotions of the memory. You will be asked at regular intervals to report anything you feel, think or recall. You are in control of the situation, and can stop the eye movements at any stage. The reprocessing element of the therapy takes place in conjunction with this, as you find EMDR replaces negative beliefs with more positive, healthier ones.