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New Growth

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)

What is EMDR and how can it help?

Traumatic experiences can disrupt the brain’s natural ability to process and integrate memories. 

These memories can become stuck, tagged with the same sounds, pictures, bodily sensations, and emotions we had at the time. We might also develop negative self-beliefs such as “I am weak…bad…unsafe…unlovable” which affect how we feel and behave in the present day. Similar experiences or reminders (e.g., places, smells, sounds) can take us back to distressing events and cause immense pain. Some people might experience well-known symptoms of PTSD such as flashbacks and nightmares, others anxiety, emotional numbness, reduced self-confidence, and social withdrawal.

EMDR is an evidence-based short-term therapy, recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and World Health Organisation (WHO). It helps reprocess traumatic memories and kickstart the mind’s natural healing ability. Once processed, the memory loses its emotional power, so you can recall the event(s) without experiencing an intense and/or distressing reaction in the present day. People also experience a "cognitive shift" whereby their negative self-beliefs are positively transformed.  


During therapy, the EMDR therapist will ask you to focus on a trauma memory and at the same time, guide you to perform side-to-side eye movements (like those in REM sleep) or alternating taps with each of your hands. This is called 'bilateral stimulation', which means both sides of the brain are engaged. This process is repeated until the distress associated with the memory has gone. Unlike many therapies, EMDR requires relatively little talking which can be really helpful for people who struggle to vocalise their thoughts and feelings about difficult events.

Research is now supporting the use of EMDR for a wide range of difficulties including PTSD, depression, OCD, some anxiety disorders, pain, addictions, and other distressing life events (Maxfield, 2019, Journal of EMDR Practice and Research).

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