At first glance, Eye movement desensitisation reprocessing (EMDR) appears to approach psychological issues in an unusual way. EMDR is not a talking therapy in its own right; it uses the body’s natural memory processing functions to helps clients work through difficult or traumatic memories.
The human mind uses Rapid Eye Movement (REM) during sleep to help it process everyday emotional experiences, bringing us relief from any distress. However, when we experience an adverse or traumatic life event, whether this is in our early or later life, this process breaks down and REM sleep doesn’t bring the usual relief. Those memories can then start to feel stuck, often being triggered when we don’t want to think about them, with an intense level of distress and begin to impact our behaviours in an undesired way.
In EMDR sessions we process distressing emotions and images from memories by replicating REM in the session whilst holding the image in your mind’s eye, reducing the power of emotionally charged memories.
EMDR addresses the past, present and future. The goal is to allow the person to achieve a complete state of emotional health. After an EMDR session, there may be a strong sense of relief, a feeling of openness or even euphoria.
It is important to note that before EMDR begins we will create a ‘safe place’ image to help you cope with any distress the image processing might temporarily evoke.
How effective is EMDR?
EMDR is recognised by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the World Health Organization as a treatment of choice for processing traumatic memories and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
More than 20,000 practitioners have been trained to use EMDR and it is being recognised as being on par with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
A considerable body of research evidence has been generated and continues to be generated. One meta-analysis established that EMDR and trauma-focused CBT are the two most effective treatments for adults experiencing difficulties stemming from traumatic life experiences (Bisson et al., 2007).
What can EMDR help with?
EMDR can help with a range of problems, although it is largely used to treat PTSD, it is also just as effective in treating other problems through memory processing.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)