Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a specialist treatment approach that uses a particular type of brain stimulation called ‘bilateral stimulation’ to activate the healthy processing of distressing and traumatic information that may be ‘stuck’ in the brain in an unprocessed form due to its overwhelming nature. EMDR therapy is known for its effectiveness in treating Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and chronic trauma. More recent research indicates that EMDR can be effective for treating other difficulties such as fears and phobias where disturbing memories have contributed to the development of mental health difficulties.
EMDR therapy invites the client to consider their disturbing memories and experiences, and while doing this, the therapist guides the client to introduce a method of bilateral stimulation. Most commonly this stimulation uses particular eye movements, but other methods of bilateral stimulation can also be used as effectively including specific types of tapping. Once a memory or experience is agreed between the therapist and client, the therapist will ask the client to consider parts of the experience in mind and follow their guidance in implementing the bilateral stimulation. Whilst this occurs, it is suggested that processing of the memory and associated emotions commences and the client begins to feel less consumed by the experience and more able to live in the present moment without the pain the memory might have been causing them previously. In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of painful events is changed and becomes more tolerable.
EMDR is recommended by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) as an effective treatment for PTSD and trauma and as such it is a highly evidence-based approach and its validity and reliability has been established by rigorous research.