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EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing

EMDR is therapy for all kinds of traumatic memories, from childhood bullying to road traffic accidents, from hate speech to war trauma, from painful “everyday” memories to symptoms of long term exposure to violent abuse. Our minds can heal from psychological trauma much as our bodies can heal from physical trauma. The distressing emotions EMDR can work with range from anxiety to depression, guilt, shame or embarrassment. EMDR uses stimulation of the right and left hemispheres of the brain in order to help reprocess memories that have become “stuck”. Clients often describe that it feels like a “tidying” or a “spring clean” of whole chains of memories directly and less directly linked to the traumatic event(s).

EMDR therapy is internationally applied and sought after and is endorsed by National Health Service in the UK (NHS) and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in the UK (NICE), the World Health Organisation, The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, and many more. You may have heard of journalists in war zones having successfully undergone EMDR therapy for their PTSD, or indeed members of the UK royal family.

When EMDR has worked well, clients say they still know that everything happened the way it happened, but they are less distressed thinking about the events. It feels ok to move forward. Instead of holding a core belief of, for example, “I’m not safe even now”, it may have changed to “I am safe enough now”, or from “I am unlovable” to “I am lovable”. I am fully qualified in EMDR and accredited by the EMDR Association of the UK and Ireland/EMDR Europe.

If we didn’t know it before, Covid showed us that EMDR works perfectly well via Zoom or other video platform. The stimulation of the left and right hemispheres for EMDR processing can utilize alternating tapping or eye movements, with the therapist asking the client to pause every 30 to 60 seconds to check what memories or sensations have come up, and providing guidance where appropriate.

Sometimes clients say their traumatic memories are too unpleasant for them to want to look at them at all, for fear of being retraumatised. That’s when I might use the Flash Technique in the first instance, which does not require the client to consciously engage with the aversive memory, before moving on to classical EMDR. EMDR can also be used for resourcing purposes, to help clients trust their own strengths and abilities more. You can read more about EMDR here.