Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy approach, aimed at processing distressing or traumatic memories. The theory underpinning EMDR is that many presenting psychological difficulties are due to one or many distressing experiences which have not been stored in memory the way usual memories are stored, and are believed to be unprocessed or blocked. These traumatic memories may cause less distress if they are processed, and EMDR is one way to do this.

Why are trauma memories stored differently?

Normal memories are stored by a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which stores processes and events. However, some traumatic events, such as abuse, violence or accidents, can be so overwhelming that the hippocampus is unable to store these events as past memories. When this happens memories are believed to be unprocessed, and we experience them as happening in the present. They are easily triggered, leading to a reliving of events rather than remembering, which can cause ongoing distress.

What to expect in an EMDR session?

EMDR treatment is a multi-step process, including preparation and history taking, but key stages are:

  • Identify a traumatic memory; focus on an image of the worst moment of that memory
  • Think about that image & belief while at the same time making left-to-right eye movements, or some other form of bilateral stimulation, such as sounds or tapping
  • To freely follow whatever comes up and just notice what happens
  • This process will be repeated until the memory causes less distress, which may happen in one or more sessions

Why bilateral stimulation?

In EMDR you are asked to pay attention to stimulation from one side to another (left then right), while thinking about your memory. This might be by following the therapist’s finger as they move it from side-to-side or using a light bar.

Alternatively you might listen to sounds or tapping sensations which occur in sequence from left to right. Research has found this facilitates memory processing.

What is EMDR used to treat?

There is very good evidence that EMDR is an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and it is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for PTSD.

How long does treatment take?

A processing session lasts 50 to 90 minutes with typically 8-12 sessions for a single trauma.


Don't replace the whole module as it's already embedded into the single.php so copy the contents (row and below, not the section) from the built footer in to replace this one and it will show up automatically