EMDR / trauma
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing. It is a powerful form of therapy that is designed to help people recover from traumatic events they have experienced in their lives.
It is recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
EMDR helps prevents difficult and distressing memories from having such a profound effect on one’s life by helping the brain to reprocess these memories properly. Therefore, EMDR is best known for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and it can also help with a range of mental health conditions in people of all ages (EMDR Association UK, 2020).
How does EMDR work?
People who have lived through traumatic events may feel like their memory of the event is “stuck” in their mind, and is very vivid and intense. Trauma can be relived by these people in the sense that they may re-experience things they saw, heard and smelt.
EMDR works by assisting the brain in the process of “unsticking” and reprocessing the traumatic memory properly so that it no longer has such a significant, intense effect.
It does this by asking the person to recall the traumatic event while they also move their eyes from side-to-side, hear a sound in each ear alternately, or feel a tap on each hand alternately. These side-to-side sensations seem to effectively stimulate the “stuck” processing system in the brain so that it can reprocess the information more like an ordinary memory, reducing its intensity. (EMDR Association UK, 2020)
The effect of this may be similar to what happens during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which is when your eyes move quickly from side to side as the brain processes memories.
Additionally, some research suggests that EMDR is effective due to the idea that concentrating on another task while processing a distressing or disturbing memory gives the brain more work to do. Therefore, when the brain is unable to dedicate all of its resources to processing the traumatic memory, it isn’t as vivid.
EMDR is a complex therapeutic process that should only be delivered by properly trained therapists.
EMDR Association UK, 2020. EMDR: The basics. [online] emdrassociation.org.uk. Available at: