EMDR - Eye Movement Desensitisation & Reprocessing

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing is a complex and powerful psychological therapy that combines well with other approaches. It is recognised by the National Health Service advisory body and the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) as an effective treatment for children and adults who have experienced trauma. It is also an effective treatment for anxiety-related problems and a variety of emotional and behavioural issues including phobias and negative thinking.

Developed in the 1980's by American clinical psychologist, Dr Francine Shapiro, a Senior Research Fellow at the Palo Alto Mental Research Institute in USA as a treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She published the first research data in 1989 and since then much research has been undertaken to illustrate its benefits in treating other psychological trauma such as: road traffic and workplace accidents, childhood sexual and/or physical abuse or neglect, natural disaster, assault, and surgical trauma.

If we are traumatised our brain and our body respond in a different way, they recognise the emergency and take protective action to such an extent that normal brain processing or functioning is interrupted. The memories of the trauma seem to become 'stuck', locked in the nervous system with all the original images, sounds, smells, thoughts and feelings involved. Sometimes they are even stored in a different part of the brain. These are then get triggered over and over again, often out of the blue causing flashbacks, nightmares and outbursts which can be very difficult to cope with.

Other parts of the brain already have the information they need to resolve the problem but there is no connection between the distressing memory and how to solve it. The alternating left-right stimulation of the brain with eye movements used in EMDR seems to stimulate the frozen or blocked information processing system and the intensity is removed from the memories and they become 'ordinary' memories.

EMDR treatment generates a certain amount of 'momentum' to our thinking and conscious awareness. In other words the treatment does not just stop immediately after the session. During eye movement sessions a lot of memories may come to mind and we may find that after the session we think about them. It is recommended we take care of ourselves and use the relaxation technique we have been shown. We may also find we dream more but as everybody is different we will be asked to keep a note of any experiences we have after the session so we can discuss them.