Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapeutic approach specifically designed to address distressing or traumatic memories. It operates on the premise that many psychological difficulties stem from unprocessed or blocked experiences that have not been stored properly in memory.

EMDR aims to facilitate the processing of these traumatic memories, helping them become properly integrated. By doing so, the individual can experience relief from the associated distress and symptoms. This technique has gained recognition from reputable organizations such as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a recommended treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Additionally, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes EMDR as an effective therapy for children as well.


What will I be asked to do in an EMDR session?

EMDR distinguishes itself from other talking therapies by focusing on the way traumatic memories are stored in the brain to alleviate trauma-related symptoms. In essence, during an EMDR session, a therapist guides you through a series of bilateral (side-to-side) eye movements while recalling traumatic or triggering experiences in manageable portions. The aim is to gradually diminish the distress associated with those memories until they no longer cause significant distress.


Why do I need to make eye movements?

In EMDR, you are directed to focus your attention from one side to another while reflecting on a specific memory. This can be achieved through different methods of bilateral stimulation. One common approach involves following the therapist's finger as it moves back and forth in your line of vision. Alternatively, you may be asked to attend to sounds or tapping sensations that occur sequentially from left to right.

This side-to-side motion, known as bilateral stimulation, has been observed to enhance the processing of memories. Various theories propose explanations for this phenomenon. For instance, it is suggested that humans naturally engage in eye movements during REM sleep to process information from the day. Another theory suggests that the left-right eye movements facilitate the connection between the emotional right brain, where traumatic memories are stored, and the left brain, which holds essential information for processing the trauma.

The key aspect is to find a form of bilateral stimulation that feels comfortable and suitable for you. It could involve visual, auditory, or tactile stimuli, depending on your preferences and therapeutic goals.


How long does treatment take?

EMDR sessions often extend beyond the typical duration of therapy sessions, lasting up to 90 minutes. The number of sessions required will vary based on the nature and intensity of the trauma you have experienced. According to estimates by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), simpler traumas may necessitate 8-12 sessions, whereas multiple or complex traumas may require more sessions to address fully.

Below are two concise videos that provide an explanation of EMDR: