EMDR: Understanding Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing


What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of psychological therapy that was originally developed to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and is recommended by NICE. It is now also used to effectively treat other mental health difficulties including Depression and Phobias.

How can EMDR help you?

When an individual experiences a traumatic event (e.g. car accident, assault, difficult birth) the mind may attempt to ‘block’ this as a form of protection. However, this means that the memory of the event may not be processed in the same way that other day to day memories are, meaning that it can feel very ‘current’ even if the event happened many years ago. This can lead to experiences such as flashbacks and nightmares, feeling hypervigilant or on edge and feeling the need to avoid things that may remind you of the traumatic event. The unprocessed memories are stored in the limbic system of the brain and so can feel very emotionally ‘raw’.

EMDR can create connections in the brain's memory network to help process traumatic memories in a natural way. During REM (rapid eye movement) sleep our brain processes our memories and stores these away. EMDR works by mimicking REM sleep whilst bringing up the traumatic memory to kick start this natural form of processing.

What happens in an EMDR session?

In an EMDR session, the practitioner will guide you through the use of bilateral stimulation (tapping/eye movements) to support you to process traumatic memories and move towards your goals. The eye movements or tapping will last for a short period of time and the practitioner will ask you for a snapshot of what you are noticing. What tends to happen is that with repeated sets of eye movements/tapping, the memory changes in form and loses its intensity in emotion, allowing this to be recognised as a neutral memory that happened in the past. This form of memory processing can also lead to a rapid improvement in other areas of your life. EMDR is not like hypnosis, patients are fully awake and present throughout the process.

The initial sessions of EMDR tend to be 60 minutes long, which we refer to as the assessment and preparation sessions. The processing sessions which follow, tend to last 90 minutes.

If you would like to contact us to discuss an assessment for suitability for therapy at the White House, please contact the admin team.

Sally Willan

Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Therapist & Psychotherapist

Sally is a qualified and Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Therapist (BABCP) with over 10 years’ experience of working with common mental health issues within NHS services.

Sally Willan

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