EMDR Therapy

EMDR Therapy, or Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing, is a specialist type of therapy that helps people to process deeply ingrained negative experiences, including trauma, depression, anxiety and intense fears.

It is an 8-phase therapy, involving the use of what is called bi-lateral stimulation (these are usually eye movements, taps or sounds). Following a course of EMDR therapy, symptoms of distress such as depression, anxiety, fearfulness, panic, avoidance, sleep disturbance, nightmares, flashbacks, hypervigilance, and negative self-beliefs can be reduced or, in many circumstances, eradicated altogether. These outcomes are supported by research evidence, and EMDR is recommended by the NHS and the World Health Organisation as an effective and first choice treatment for trauma.

EMDR works by putting emotional distance between you and your upsetting experiences and resolving unwanted symptoms.

Clients typically describe feeling more settled and peaceful after a course of EMDR therapy.

EMDR can be conducted weekly, or more intensively for more rapid outcomes. See my Intensive EMDR page for more information about achieving more rapid results.

“So EMDR is mainly for people who have experienced trauma?”

Yes and No

EMDR was originally developed to support people who were experiencing post-traumatic stress (PTSD) following overwhelming life events. It is still used this way by the NHS. However, the application of EMDR is much wider now and if you see a private practitioner like me, you can access EMDR for a whole range of problems.

Applications of EMDR have evolved

Over time and with more research we have learnt that EMDR can help people overcome difficult life experiences even if they aren't classed as trauma. It can also help with addictions, phobias, anxiety, depression, and much more. EMDR can even help with work-related performance issues, such as low self-confidence.

We understand more about the body & mind

We now know that difficult life experiences, whether in childhood or adulthood, can have a significant impact on how we feel about ourselves well into adulthood. We also know that such experiences are often linked to bodily experiences of anxiety, panic, depression, and emotional numbing. Upsetting life experiences and trauma can feel somewhat similar in the mind and body. This is because of the way our brains and bodies are designed to respond to upsetting experiences.

Trauma is not an event

Trauma is best understood as an individual physiological experience rather than an event that happens to us. It's not so much about what happened, but more about how your body processes what happened. It's important to know that this is beyond your conscious control. It's something that happens deep in the oldest part of the brain and within your autonomic nervous system. Your body decides how you respond to something overwhelming.

This means that two people can experience the same thing, and one might feel traumatized and the other one not. Of course, some things will be universally experienced as traumatic, for instance childhood sexual abuse, because it is something a child's mind and body just cannot process.

We now know that the support we receive from family and community helps us to recover from overwhelming experiences. The higher quality the support, the better our recovery. There would actually be less trauma in the world if we were better at supporting each other emotionally during difficult times.

What can EMDR help with?

EMDR can help with feeling traumatised or feeling distressed, anxious or numb.

Single Events

This includes feeling traumatised or distressed following an incident like an accident, assault, rape, an act of terrorism, an illness or a medical procedure, a death, suicide, or a difficult birth experience.

Trauma & Distress in Adult Relationships / Social Contexts

This might include being in a violent, emotionally abusive, neglectful, manipulative or coercive relationship. Or experiencing racism or another type of hostility within your intimate relationship, or at work, school, or in life more generally. Coping with neurodivergence and trying to fit into a neurotypical world is also understood to be a source of ongoing social trauma.

Trauma & Distress in Childhood

As a child you might have been overtly neglected or abused or parented very harshly. Or your experience might have been more subtle. Maybe you didn't feel loved, weren't shown love and affection. Perhaps a parent or carer disappeared from your life or had an addiction or mental health problems. As an adult, you might find yourself struggling in ways you can't make sense of.

Secondary or Vicarious Trauma

If you are a front-line or humanitarian worker, or a trauma therapist, you might witness or hear about trauma on a regular basis. This can lead to something called secondary trauma, meaning you are being traumatized by someone else's trauma and experiencing distress and/or PTSD symptoms. Or perhaps you have witnessed something very distressing, like an accident or someone's death. Vicarious trauma is when your view of the world changes because of your exposure to trauma.

Ongoing Trauma & Distress

War, a pandemic, seeking asylum, displacement, human trafficking & slavery are examples of ongoing trauma.

Having to live with chronic illness or a life-changing diagnosis can also cause high levels of distress.

Feeling Distressed

Emotional distress might manifest as anxiety & panic, rage (hyperarousal), or depression & numbing (hypo-arousal). Some people experience an overwhelming combination of all of those things. You might cope by using substances, exercise, or working excessively. Or you might be controlling your food in ways that make you unwell. EMDR can help to shift out of these chronic states of distress.

Get In Touch

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about how psychotherapy, EMDR or coaching works, or to arrange an initial session together. I offer a free 20 minute zoom consultation so that we can explore your issues and see whether we might be the right fit for each other. Please include a mobile number if possible and please check your spam if you haven't heard from me within 48 hours, as I usually reply quite promptly.

All enquires are usually answered within 24-48 hours, and all contact is strictly confidential.