EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) is a deep, transformative, embodied psychotherapy approach. It started out as a treatment for Post Traumatic Stress  and is currently recommended as the main treatment approach for this by NICE-Guidelines  but has in recent years also found to be amazingly effective with anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, complex grieving and  some attachment issues (namely, problems in forming happy and lasting relationships as a result of difficult experiences, especially in childhood, like abuse, neglect, loneliness, bullying etc.).  
 
The underlying idea of EMDR therapy is that we all have traumas from the past. These might be big traumas, or “just” a string of emotional injuries, which we might not even recall individually, but which have an accumulative, significant effect.
These traumas can severely interfere with our ability to function and enjoy our lives in the present.
 
What does EMDR typically help with?
  • Trauma (severe accidents, having been attacked physically/verbally)
  • Phobias (e.g. fear of flying, spiders, mice etc.)
  • Chronic Pain
  • Depression
  • Grieving (complex/long lasting grief)
  • Attachment Issues (childhood problems like bullying, neglect or abuse, leading to difficulties in current relationships)
  • Fear of Success/performance enhancement
  • Low self-worth
  • Anxiety and Panic Attacks
 
EMDR therapy can help people replace their anxiety and fear with positive images, emotions and thoughts. EMDR makes it possible to gain greater self-knowledge and a new perspective, enabling the person to regain their natural state of emotional functioning, a greater sense of personal power, and a more peaceful life.
 
How does EMDR work?
EMDR was discovered by Dr. Francine Shapiro, an American Clinical Psychologist and Senior Research Fellow, in 1987, and has been thoroughly researched, documented and developed further since.
 
In a nutshell, traumatic and distressing memories are stored in the part of our brain which deals with survival under threat and which produces our natural fight, flight and freeze responses. The amygdala (the part of the brain that deals with emergencies) is permanently switched on. The connection with the hippocampus (dealing with memory) is affected, which can lead us to think and feel as if the traumatic memories are happening now – that is why panic attacks can happen when a sufferer is presented with a trigger. EMDR therapy seeks to reprocess the traumatic memories. 

In these cases, EMDR therapy can be tremendously helpful. The Eye Movement part of the work is thought to bring about a process similar to that occurring in REM sleep which will allow the fragments of memory to move from the survival based part of the brain to the more adaptive thinking part of the brain.  
You will be awake and fully conscious at all times and while you engage with the difficult memories, you remain fully present in the here and now, in a safe, warm and encouraging environment, securely supported by your therapist. This means you will not be retraumatised, but can process these events in a safe and contained way.
 
What is an EMDR therapy session like?
In the first few sessions we'll draw up a timeline of your life so far, identifying all the difficult times you've experienced in order to assess together what you want to work on and what will be the most useful starting point.  We'll also do some work to enable you to find a good space in yourself so that you have a place to return to that can help you settle and we may well work on other resources too.  After that, the experience is radically different from traditional talking therapy. 
 
EMDR therapy works by activating both the right and left sides of the brain while recalling a traumatic event. This allows the memory to be reprocessed and the emotion attached to it to be released. The activation of the left and right side of the brain is normally achieved through eye movement: the practitioner will invite you to follow their hand with your eyes, tracking from left to right and back or up and down or diagonally. If for some reason you cannot make eye movements then left and right sound or touch stimulation can be used.
During the short sets of eye movements you are guided to start where the difficult memories are and then just let whatever comes, come with no judgement or censorship and no need to describe it all to the therapist. This means there is far less talking than is usual in therapy. You’ll be asked to take a deep breath at the end of each set and report back what’s just come up for you.  I won’t analyse or interpret this, but will keep things moving by keeping on going with the  short sets of ‘Bilateral Stimulations’, for example by eye movements, hand taps or sounds (e.g. clicks alternating between the left and the right ear). Between each set we make sure you remain present in the here and now, and, while there might be a lot of emotion coming up, we will make sure together that you feel safe and supported. Emotions, body sensations, sights, sounds may all come up as part of the processing - this is natural and a good sign that everything is being made available to be desensitised and sored more effectively.
Sessions are typically longer than usual talking therapy, for example lasting around 65 – 90 minutes and you will be asked to keep a diary between sessions, so that we can check together what might have come up and how you have been feeling.


How many sessions will I need?
 
Generally, EMDR therapy processes even complex and long-standing issues very quickly, so that we might look at 6 – 15 sessions for an issue (sometimes less, sometimes more, if one trauma connects to a number of others, which also need to be processed).  Research shows that one of the powerful aspects of EMDR therapy is that it supports us to access positive images, emotions and thoughts. It makes it possible for us to gain greater self-knowledge and a new perspective, freeing people to regain their natural state of emotional functioning, a greater sense of personal power, and a more peaceful life.
 
 Both EMDR therapy and Focusing offer a safe way of processing difficult, bodily held emotions and experiences, changing how we feel about what has happend to us in a positive way.