Francine Shaprio developed Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) in 1987, implementing this process to successfully treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

NICE recommends EMDR as an effective treatment for trauma and PTSD, which is a highly research-based approach. EMDR’s validity and reliability have been established through rigorous studies.

What is EMDR?

It is a psychotherapy approach that helps people recover from symptoms caused by past negative experiences. By using bilateral stimulation, eye movements and bilateral tapping, EMDR therapy helps people process and desensitise the negative experiences in their past that are having adverse effects on the present moment.

How does it work?

In EMDR, eye movements are used to unlock the nervous system and allow the brain to process the past negative experience.

Perhaps this is what happens during REM sleep as eye movements may be involved in the processing of unconscious material. For example, when we have a nightmare, we can often wake up from it and talk about the experience without having the same physical reactions.

When something negative happens to us in our past, it often gets stuck in the nervous system, along with the original picture, sound, sensation, smell, thoughts, and feelings. As this negative experience is locked in the nervous system there will be moments when it could be triggered in the present moment, when a reminder or similar situation occurs. For example, early childhood bullying could be triggered by a negative experience with our boss.

This can cause a lot of distress both physically, by feeling anxious, and emotionally feeling fearful, helpless and worthless. We can struggle to control these emotions and physical reactions in the present moment. These are real emotions associated with our past experience that can prevent us from living a fulfilling life.

What can I expect from an EMDR session?

In EMDR therapy, there are eight phases and during the first stage we would be contracting and explaining what EMDR is. I will ask you about your history and any medication you are taking. I will establish if EMDR is suitable for you as EMDR is not always suitable for all clients if they have some medical conditions. I will clarify what you would like to change in the present moment and use this information to look at key targets to support you to reach your goal.

It is important to remember that it is your own brain that will be doing the healing, and that you are in control.

How many sessions do I need for EMDR?

A typical session last for 60 mins and they are weekly. Number of sessions required varies between 6 – 12 as each person reacts differently. The purpose of EMDR is to rewire the brain.

Don't let previous trauma hold you back: you've got this.

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