Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing


“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
― Rumi

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress resulting from disturbing life experiences.  Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy, people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference.

It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal.  EMDR therapy shows that the mind can heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma.  When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound.  If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain.  Once the block is removed, healing resumes.  EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes.  The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health.  If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering.  Once the block is removed, healing resumes.  Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR therapy training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes.

The intervention was founded and developed in the 1980s by an American Clinical Psychologist, Francine Shapiro. Since this time, EMDR has drawn much attention for its effectiveness in treating trauma, particularly single-episode traumatic events.  Increasingly, scientific research and anecdotal evidence are supporting the use of EMDR for phobias, depression, complex PTSD, and dissociation.  EMDR is a leading, evidence-based trauma treatment recommended by groups such as the World Health Organisation.

The treatment is based on the Adaptive Information Processing system, which states that some events in an individual’s life are not fully integrated into the usual memory network, which would normally render the memory neutral.  Instead, the memory of an event, including the beliefs, body sensations and feelings that were initially experienced during the event, get maladaptively stored and can then be retriggered by present-day situations.  Depending on the severity/nature of the traumatic memory and emotion, this can cause an individual unnecessary distress in their current life due to past events.

EMDR uses bilateral stimulation of the brain to access the memories, memory networks and associated sensations, negative thought processes and emotions. The intervention enables the memory to be reprocessed in a safe, therapeutic environment that results in the neutralizing of the memory so that an individual may still be able to think about the past event but not experience the distress previously associated with the event. While the therapeutic results are often quick, the client and therapist only work at a pace that is comfortable for the client. This is because some individuals often experience some anxiety and worry about addressing past events. The feedback from clients after a memory is fully processed in an EMDR session is usually one of positive relief. One specific benefit of this approach is that the client’s brain ‘does all the work’, and the therapist’s role is only to facilitate the process.  In addition, you do not have to talk in great detail about the painful event in order to get relief from it.