Eye-Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR) - SafeHaven Trauma Centre

EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) is commonly recognized as a treatment for psychological trauma. It has also been used to successfully treat other conditions such as depression, OCD, phobias and panic attacks. EMDR is one of the standard recommended treatments for trauma and PTSD in the NICE guidelines.


How does EMDR treatment help?

EMDR does two very important things, firstly it “unlocks” negative memories and emotions stored in the nervous system, and then it helps the brain to successfully process the experience.

What happens in EMDR Therapy?

EMDR has many elements that are common to other psychotherapy practices, therefore a client will have sessions where they are talking with their therapist as they would in other psychotherapy sessions. However, with EMDR there are also sessions where a client is actively processing specific memories. The ‘processing’ sessions involve deliberately activating both hemispheres of the brain, whilst recounting a traumatic memory. In these processing sessions an individual is asked to bring an unpleasant image, memory or negative belief related to their traumatic event or situation to mind.  With these thoughts and images in mind, individuals are helped to stimulate both hemispheres of their brain by either moving their eyes side-to-side for several seconds, listening to sounds through a headset or holding pads in their hands – which vibrate. The choice of whether to use sight, sound or feeling sensations is something decided upon between the client and their therapist, and it depends on which feels most comfortable. Afterward, the individual will be encouraged to breathe deeply and discuss what was brought up during the processing. Whatever was brought up can then be used for another processing exercise. This cycle continues until distress has reduced.


Is EMDR treatment right for you?

The most important factor to consider is if EMDR is appropriate and a good ‘fit’ for the person considering treatment. The clinical suitability is determined by the therapist, and will depend on personal factors and circumstances; however, whether EMDR is a good ‘fit’ from the client’s perspective is equally important. This will be established following discussions between the client and their therapist. As there are different approaches to treating stress and trauma, and if EMDR does not feel appropriate it may be an alternative therapy will prove more effective.


SafeHaven Trauma Centre