Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) is a short- to medium-term relatively new and evidence-based therapy. EMDR is an effective treatment approach for people who have experienced single or multiple traumatic events in their lives, the impact of which continues to cause them substantial distress. There is also some evidence that EMDR can be effective for treating anxiety symptoms, OCD and phobias. The aim of EMDR is to be able to process distress and difficult emotions associated with traumatic events and memories, so that these have less influence and hold over a person in the here and now. EMDR involves bilateral stimulation (such as following the therapist’s hands moving back and forth in front of the eyes, alternate taps on the back of the hands or knees, or listening to sounds alternating in each ear), while holding difficult events or memories in mind. The combination of these two things helps the brain to process the memory as an event in the past, rather than something that is of threat now.


EMDR can help you to:

  • develop extra ways of coping with distressing feelings and emotions
  • feel less emotionally tied to difficult or traumatic events that have happened in the past
  • find new or alternative ways to make sense of difficult events, and thoughts and beliefs about these
  • be less held back by the past
  • have more confidence to do things you have previously enjoyed or been interested in


What happens in sessions?

The first few sessions are an opportunity to develop the confidence to talk about difficult events, thoughts or feelings, and to get to know what the therapist and therapy context are like. We know some people find talking about these things really difficult, so the aim will be to help you practice some extra strategies you can use during and outside of sessions if feelings or emotions start becoming too intense or overwhelming. In these sessions, there is also some information sharing (psychoeducation), about how and why our brains process traumatic events in the ways they do, and the ways in which EMDR can reduce distress about past events. As your confidence grows, sessions involve talking about and processing trauma. Therapy happens at the pace you feel comfortable with, and this is reviewed regularly.