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What is EMDR?

EMDR is a specialized form of therapy, which is particularly effective in working with trauma and distressing memories. These can stem from a clearly defined single event, or result from the cumulative effect of multiple troubling experiences that may not be so easily identifiable.

Although originally and primarily associated with PTSD, EMDR is increasingly being used and proving effective for the treatment of a wide range of psychological problems including:

  • Adverse childhood experiences
  • Addictions
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic pain
  • Complicated grief
  • Eating disorders
  • Medically unexplained and somatic symptoms
  • OCD
  • Phobias
  • Trauma – single event & complex

What does EMDR stand for?

EMDR is an acronym for Eye Movement Desensitzation and Reprocessing.

It originates from the work of American clinical psychologist, Dr Francine Shapiro, in the late 1980s. She published the first research data to support the benefits of the therapy in 1989.

Since then, EMDR has developed and been backed by a wealth of clinical and research evidence. EMDR is now recommended by both NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) and WHO (World Health Organization) for the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

How does EMDR work?

The majority of our daily experiences are naturally processed and laid down in our long-term memory for future recall. But some experiences are too overwhelming or distressing for this to happen naturally.

Instead, they get stuck in part of our brain and nervous system. As a result, we are prone to being repeatedly triggered into re-experiencing the event as though it were happening again for real, rather than recalling it as a memory.

Through the use of careful preparation and techniques specific to EMDR (including the ‘Eye Movement’ aspect), it decreases the level of disturbance (the ‘Desensitization’ aspect) and allows different parts of our brain to make new links and new learning (the ‘Reprocessing’ aspect).

In practical terms, it brings relief from repeated distress, and a new way of thinking and feeling about a disturbing experience or memory.

Another benefit of EMDR for many clients is the fact it is not necessary to talk in great detail about the distressing event for healing to take place.

An adapted form of EMDR can also be used to work with addictions, compulsions and obsessions. Click here to read more.

“Think of EMDR as an ally and facilitator of the brain and nervous system’s natural healing process.”

Loraine Cairns, EMDR Therapist, North Devon