Metamorphosis Psychological Consultancy
MetamorphosisPsychological Consultancy

What is EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation & Reprocessing)?


The Development of EMDR was initiated by Dr Francine Shapiro in the USA in late

1980s. Since then EMDR has been extended and used successfully for PTSD and

many anxiety and trauma based disorders and most disorders that have their origin

in emotional trauma in earlier years. In the past, PTSD was mainly thought of in

terms of war trauma but nowadays it includes examples of all major emotional traumas,

including road traffic accidents, assaults and rape, physical and sexual abuse, traumas

following involvement in disasters, trauma after medical procedures, etc. It is widely

accepted that symptoms such as "flashbacks", avoidance behaviours, a startle response,

sleep difficulties and emotional numbing are common following trauma.

These symptoms can persist for many years if left untreated.


How Does EMDR Work?

EMDR is an extremely powerful technique, which should only be used by properly

trained and experienced clinicians. Information reprocessing appears to be a

major element in the procedure. One hypothesis is that when disturbing events

occur, the normal information-processing system becomes imbalanced or

blocked and is replayed over and over again, rather like a record player needle

that has become stuck in the groove. The mind goes over and over the same event,

replaying it, without it resulting in information processing so that things can move on.

It is believed that this is what may be happening when an individual experiences

"flashbacks". There is some evidence that the eye movements perform a similar

function to those that occur during REM sleep (when we dream), which we already

know to have a vital information-processing function. The eye movements used

appear to stimulate the person's information processing ability when it has got

stuck through trauma. EMDR also contains within its procedures other elements

recognisable from more traditional therapies, such as cognitive and behavioural

therapies (CBT), which are known to work well. EMDR is quite different from

hypnosis, and no trance state is induced, no suggestions are made, and the

changes that occur are purely the result of the client's own innate and health

seeking processes.


It is recommended by NICE that "all people with PTSD should

be offered a course of trauma-focused psychological treatment (trauma-focused

cognitive behavioural therapy [CBT] or eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing

[EMDR])." For further information about PTSD click here. For further information about

EMDR for PTSD click here.


How EMDR is used in Clinical Practice?

Following in-depth assessment of the client's presenting problems and other

relevant issues in their personal history, time will be taken to explain the

treatment and demonstrate the bilateral stimulated eye movements so that the

client is fully prepared for what the treatment involves. EMDR requires clients

to focus on three main aspects of the trauma; a visual image of the traumatic

memory, the negative thought that they have about themselves in relation to

the trauma, and the location of the disturbance in their body. While focusing

on these aspects, the client then tracks visual and/or auditory bilateral set of

stimulations. After each set the client is simply asked to report on what they are

experiencing. During the course of this procedure, a decrease in the emotional

impact of the traumatic memory usually occurs. (Adapted from EMDR UK and

Ireland Association facts sheet).