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Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)

What kind of therapy is it?

EMDR is in a class of its own! It combines elements of a range of other therapies, but its central technique - eye-movement - is unique to it.

What problems can it help with?

EMDR was developed specifically to help with traumatic memories and post-traumatic stress disorder but can also help with other problems like depression and anxiety.

How does it work?

Traumatic memories are unusually vivid and upsetting because they have not been processed in the usual way: the brain’s memory-processing system seems not to work properly when we are very distressed, and memories can get “stuck”. EMDR helps the brain to process these memories using movements of the eyes, although it is not known why this is effective.

What will a typical session be like?

Your therapist will seek to form a trusting relationship with you, in order to help you feel safe when recalling traumatic memories. They will then take you through a number of techniques (across several sessions) to help you to process your traumatic memories. The most distinctive of these is the use of bilateral stimulation (i.e. stimulating both sides of the brain) using eye movements, tapping, or sounds. Unlike other therapies for trauma, EMDR does not require you to describe your trauma memories in detail.

What is the evidence?

A number of studies have shown that EMDR is as effective for treating trauma as other evidence-based treatments. It may have advantages over some of these treatments, such as requiring fewer sessions or less homework.

Further reading: 
EMDR International Association
EMDR Institute, Inc


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