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What is EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)?

Updated: Nov 16, 2023


EMDR is a psychotherapy designed to work with individuals who are struggling with distressing or traumatic memories. The theory underpinning EMDR suggests that when memories are too overwhelming, they are not stored properly in the memory part of our brain (the hippocampus). This is why these memories can be easily re- triggered and replayed (we call these flashbacks), causing high levels of distress.

These memories sometimes need help to be processed, which is where EMDR can be

helpful.


Who is EMDR for?


Whilst EMDR was developed and is best known for treating trauma, it can help with

a range of mental health difficulties, including but not exclusive to anxiety and

depression.


What does EMDR look like?


EMDR involves focusing on three different time-periods: the past, present and

future. You will identify past events with your clinician that may have contributed to

the way you are feeling now. You will also identify current triggers and stressors and

anticipated, future problems. Once the events have been identified, together with

your therapist, you will identify a memory to target for processing (to store the

memory in a more helpful way).


In the processing stage of EMDR, you will be asked to do three things:

1) Hold an image of your memory in mind

2) Identify the negative belief you hold about yourself from the memory

3) Identify related emotions and body sensations


You will be asked to do these whilst paying attention from one side to the other.

These are called “bilateral stimulation” and can be in the form of eye movements

from left to right, tapping or following sounds left to right. These bilateral

stimulations have been found to enhance memory processing, allowing you to access

thoughts and emotions related to the memory and store this away with a new

meaning. You will also be asked to identify a positive belief about yourself with the

aim to transform the meaning of the memory.


How does it work?


The bilateral stimulation is said to work in similar ways to Rapid Eye Movement

(REM) sleep; the part of our sleep cycle whereby we process events from the day and

file them away in our memory store in the brain.


If you think EMDR may be helpful for you, please feel free to reach out or book an

initial consultation so we can see if we would be a good fit to work together.

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