Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (more commonly known as EMDR) is a very effective psychological intervention which is used to treat individuals who have experienced psychological difficulties arising from traumatic experiences. Such experiences might include events which involve physical harm and/or a threat to life safety such as car traffic accidents, childhood abuse, rape, war trauma, natural disasters and violence but can also include less obvious traumatic events often originating in shock, humiliation or loss which can result in prolonged, low grade distress.
EMDR was developed by the American psychologist, Dr Francine Shapiro, in the 1980s and today is approved in the UK by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
When a person is involved in a distressing event, they may feel overwhelmed and their brain may be unable to process the information like a normal memory. The distressing memory seems to become frozen on a neurological level and subsequently the memory is inadequately processed and stored in an isolated network.
The goal of EMDR therapy is to properly process these traumatic memories, reducing their impact, alleviating emotional and psychological distress and helping clients to develop coping mechanisms.
An essential part of EMDR treatment is the use of what is known as ‘bilateral stimulation’ of the brain, the alternating left-right brain stimulation which can be done with eye movements, sounds or taps. This process stimulates the frozen or blocked memories, allowing them to process and heal. The distressing memories seem to lose their intensity (desensitise), and become less distressing and more like ordinary memories.
For more information about EMDR see:
EMDR UK and Ireland