Eye Movement De-Sensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)

Psychological .

Eye Movement De-Sensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy treatment that has been shown to be highly effective in treating a range of mental health issues, particularly those related to trauma. This therapy works by allowing individuals to process traumatic memories in a safe and controlled manner, helping them to reprocess these memories in a way that reduces their emotional impact and allows for healing to take place.

EMDR was first developed by psychologist Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s. Shapiro discovered the therapeutic benefits of eye movements when she noticed that certain eye movements reduced the emotional intensity of her own disturbing thoughts. This led her to develop a technique that involved guiding patients to move their eyes from side to side while simultaneously recalling traumatic memories. Over several years, Shapiro refined this technique and developed a structured protocol that has since been widely adopted and recognised as an effective therapy for trauma-related issues.

How It Works:

EMDR works by targeting traumatic memories stored in the brain and allowing individuals to process these memories in a way that promotes adaptive resolution. During an EMDR session, the therapist guides the individual to focus on a traumatic memory while simultaneously moving their eyes back and forth or engaging in another form of bilateral stimulation, such as tapping or auditory cues. The therapist guides the individual through a series of steps such as identifying the target memory, processing and stimulating the memory, and assessing the individual’s emotional response. This process helps to reprocess the traumatic memory and integrate it into the individual’s overall sense of self in a more adaptive way, and helps the individual to reframe the memory in a more positive light, allowing for healing and resolution to occur.

The theory behind EMDR is based on the idea that traumatic experiences can get “stuck” in the brain, causing disruptions in how memories are processed. During a traumatic event, the brain may not be able to process the memory properly, leading to symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, and heightened anxiety. EMDR aims to help the brain reprocess these memories in a healthier way, allowing individuals to heal from their past traumas. Specifically, EMDR therapy will involve the individual recalling a traumatic memory while simultaneously focusing on external stimuli. This bilateral stimulation will help to unlock and reprocess the traumatic memories, which allows the brain to process them more effectively.

During A Session:

The session typically begins with the therapist helping the client identify a specific memory or issue that they would like to work on. The client will then focus on the memory while engaging in the bilateral stimulation. Throughout the session, the therapist will check in with the client to see how they are feeling and guide them through the process of reprocessing the memory.

Over time, clients may begin to notice a decrease in the intensity of their symptoms, as well as a shift in their beliefs and attitudes related to the traumatic event. EMDR has been shown to be an effective and efficient form of therapy, with many clients experiencing significant improvements in a relatively short amount of time.

Who Might Need EMDR:

EMDR is particularly beneficial for individuals who have experienced trauma, such as those who have been victims of abuse, accidents, or other traumatic events. It can also be helpful for individuals who struggle with anxiety, depression, phobias, and other mental health issues that are rooted in past traumatic experiences. EMDR is suitable for individuals of all ages, from children to adults, and can be adapted to meet the specific needs of each individual.

Essential Elements of EMDR:

The key elements of EMDR include the identification of traumatic memories, the use of bilateral stimulation to process these memories, the reprocessing and reframing of the memories, and the assessment of emotional responses. These elements work together to help individuals to process traumatic memories in a safe and controlled manner, allowing for healing and resolution to occur.

Example Case Study:

“Sarah, a 30-year-old woman, had been struggling with severe anxiety and panic attacks after experiencing a traumatic car accident. She started EMDR therapy to address her PTSD symptoms, such as flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts. Through EMDR, Sarah was able to process her traumatic memories and reduce the emotional intensity associated with them. After several sessions, Sarah noticed a significant decrease in her symptoms and was able to move forward with her life with greater ease and confidence.”

Criticisms of EMDR:

While EMDR has been shown to be highly effective in treating trauma-related issues, some critics question the underlying mechanisms of the therapy, particularly the role of eye movements in facilitating emotional processing. Additionally, some individuals may experience temporary distress or heightened emotional responses during EMDR sessions, which can be challenging for some clients. Despite these criticisms, EMDR remains a widely accepted and effective therapy for trauma and other mental health issues.

Benefits of EMDR:

One of the key benefits of EMDR is its ability to rapidly reduce the emotional intensity of traumatic memories, allowing individuals to process these memories in a safe and controlled manner. EMDR has been shown to be highly effective in reducing symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, with many individuals experiencing significant improvements after just a few sessions. Additionally, EMDR can help individuals to build resilience and develop coping strategies for managing stress and emotional distress.

Applications and Usages:

EMDR is widely used in the treatment of trauma-related issues, including PTSD, complex trauma, and other psychological disorders. It has also been shown to be effective in treating phobias, anxiety disorders, and other mental health conditions. EMDR can be used as a stand-alone therapy or in conjunction with other forms of treatment, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy or medication.

In conclusion, EMDR is a powerful and effective therapy that can help individuals to process traumatic memories, reduce emotional distress, and promote healing and resolution. With its roots in eye movements and bilateral stimulation, EMDR has revolutionized the treatment of trauma-related issues and continues to be a valuable tool for mental health professionals and clients alike.

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Oren, E.M.D.R. and Solomon, R., 2012. EMDR therapy: An overview of its development and mechanisms of action. European Review of Applied Psychology62(4), pp.197-203.


Shapiro, E., 2009. EMDR treatment of recent trauma. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research3(3), pp.141-151.


Shapiro, F. and Maxfield, L., 2002. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): Information processing in the treatment of trauma. Journal of clinical psychology58(8), pp.933-946.


Spector, J., 2007. Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR). Handbook of Evidencebased Psychotherapies: A Guide for Research and Practice, pp.93-109.

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