(Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing)

EMDR is a specialist psychotherapy process which is used to treat disturbing events, trauma and PTSD, amongst other distresses.   My video above is quite in-depth and explains the whole process.    In summary EMDR is a process to activate and access past upsetting experiences, which have not been processed fully.   Once the experience is activated, eye movements are used to process it, thus changing the memory into a healthy form and reducing or eliminating the emotional upset from the experience.  This results in the memory moving from the brains alarm centre (fight, flight or freeze area of the brain – Amagdala) to the front part of the brain (Hippocampus) alongside all the other healthy memories.

When is EMDR Useful?

When we are involved in a distressing or traumatic event, we may feel overwhelmed and sometimes our brains are unable to process the information like it would do with a normal memory.  The distressing memory seems to become frozen on a neurological level.  When we then recall the distressing memory, we can re-experience the sensations from the past and this can feel intense.  (e.g. what we  saw, heard, smelt, tasted or felt).  We sometimes avoid thinking about the distressing event so to not experience the distressing feelings, however often particular things trigger off the memory.   EMDR is cited in the NICE guidelines as a recommended therapy for PTSD, however it is useful for any memory that is causes disturbances/ distress (including: anxiety based disorders (including panic attacks), obsessive compulsive disorders, phobias, abuse (verbal, physical and sexual), rape and sexual assault, self-esteem issues, anger, depression, performance anxiety etc).

How EMDR Works

In EMDR the alternating left-right stimulation of the brain with eye movements, sounds or taps, seems to stimulate the frozen or blocked information processing system.  As the process continues distressing memories seem to lose their intensity, so that the memories are less distressing and seem more like ‘ordinary’ memories. The effect is believed to be similar to that which occurs naturally during REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) when your eyes rapidly move from side to side.  EMDR helps reduce the distress of all the different kinds of memories from your senses ( what you saw, heard, smelt, tasted, felt or thought.)  Although EMDR uses simple eye movements it is a much more intensive therapy with protocols and procedures, which have been well researched for their effectiveness.

What to Expect

The therapist will spend time getting to know your history and will ask about the distress you are experiencing, past difficulties, if you have physical problems, the medication you are taking and explore the support you have. If your therapist feels EMDR is suited for your difficulty, then she will describe the EMDR model to you and explain the theory.   There will be opportunities for your questions to be answered and any concerns you may have.

Firstly your therapist will spend some time demonstrating some relaxation exercises with you, which could include ‘safe or pleasant place’ exercises, guided visualisation, deep muscle relaxation and breathing retraining.  Once you and your therapist feel that you are sufficiently prepared and are able to relax yourself,  we can start to target a distressing memory with the eye movements or other forms of left-right alternating stimulation, such as sound or taps.   You will be instructed to select an image that represents the distressing event and to think about negative and positive thoughts, your feelings, the amount of distress you feel and where you feel it in your body (the therapist will guide you through every stage of this process).

Your therapist will then begin the eye movements while you hold the image in mind. After each set of eye movements your therapist will ask you what came to mind, if there was any change or what you noticed during the eye movements.  During the eye movements you may experience the distressing event quite intensely to start with, but this distress generally reduces as the memory is processed with EMDR.

Your therapist will continue with the eye movements until your distress is reduced as much as possible. Your therapist will then ask you to think about your positive thought and also check whether there is any part of your body where you still feel distress. Before the end of the session, your therapist will give you time to feel calm again, using the safe-pleasant place exercise or relaxation techniques.

Between EDMR Sessions

During and after an EMDR sessions, memories are generated.  If these memories are distressing, then for a day or two you may still feel distressed.   You may also find that you are dreaming more.  This is a sign that the memory is being processed.  This is a good time to take care of yourself and use your relaxation technique you have been taught to sooth yourself.

It is worth keeping a records of your own experience to discuss at your next session.  As the sessions continue and the memory is processed the distress decreases with EMDR.   At the end of EMDR therapy, many people report feeling no distress at all when recalling the distressing event.

First Session

At our first appointment we will discuss your issues and therapeutic needs.  If we are both comfortable continuing to work together, we will arrange further therapy sessions.  EMDR therapy is more beneficial when sessions are attended on a regular basis and the full process is completed.

Before we start EMDR work is is important that you are able to dedicate time and commitment to attend regular sessions.     (For single trauma issues 12 sessions can be enough, however for more complex traumas, multiple issues or attachment work EMDR would often require more sessions.   In the initial history taking and planning stages we will discuss the focus of our work and continue to re-evaluate throughout sessions).

Image result for eyes emdr

“Trauma is not what happens to you: trauma is what happens inside you as a result of what happens to you.”  Gabor Mate

“The goal of EMDR treatment is to rapidly metabolize the dysfunctional residue from the past and transform it into something useful.” Francine Shapiro.


“Upon undertaking the EMDR Therapy I felt instanst results, I had a little personal difficulty in understanding why that might be but just went with it.  Following EMDR Therapy I am able to think about the situations and experience being present in certain environments while feeling strong, calm and in control.  As a result I have less anxiety, anger and feel less upset when I reflect and do not anticipate the anxiety that I used to.  This has had a massive impact on my life with regards to confidence and making decisions.

“I would recommend this therapy to anyone who has suffered a traumatic event in their life, especially with Julie. I have received various methods of therapy from Julie over the years and I have always felt very calm and safe. Over the course of several weeks, I have received EDMR and to put it plainly it has changed my life. After each session targeting different things, I felt a positive shift and things that I have struggled with for years, do not even bother me anymore. I would recommend Julie to anyone who is thinking about therapy and would highly recommend EDMR therapy.”

“I had no expectations going into therapy as I had tried different types of therapy in the past.  Julie laid it all out for me right at the start explaining that in order for this to work I had to be honest with her and myself.  By using a tapping process she has helped me to break down and process some difficult images, things I never thought I’d ever clear.  I would recommend Julie to anyone who needs processing trauma.  I would like to say thank you for everything.”

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