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What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing EMDR for short is a relatively new therapy established within the last 15 years.  It is an extremely effective treatment for people – children as well as adults who have had traumatic experiences. It is also helpful for a variety of emotional and behaviour problems in adults and children. There is a wealth of information about current research available on the Internet.

How can EMDR help?

EMDR is an approach that seems to help ‘unblock’ the brain’s processing so that traumatic memories can become ‘ordinary’ memories.  We do not know precisely how this treatment works.  It may have something to do with the alternating left-right stimulation of the brain – or with REM sleep in which the eyes often move from side to side on their own.  The eye movements may help to process the unconscious material.

What does EMDR involve?

Before EMDR takes place there will have been several preparatory sessions. EMDR involves asking you to think about the upsetting events. You are then asked to look at the therapist’s finger and follow it back and forth for about 15 to 30 seconds.  Other types of left-right stimulation such as hand taps might be used if you find the eye movements difficult.  After a few seconds of eye movements or other right-left stimulation, you will be asked to take a deep breath, let go of the image, and rest.

You are then asked what comes up next in your mind.  Typically a new image, thought, feeling, or physical sensation is experienced.  You hold this image in mind and follow another set of eye movements or hand taps.  Sometimes upsetting thoughts and feelings come up and need to be dealt with.  The procedure continues until the event no longer seems upsetting.

Feeling Safe

You will set up ‘safe/calm place’ before starting to use EMDR. This safe place is a relaxation technique.  This gives you control, and helps you to feel safe. It can be used between sessions at any time.


EMDR is recommended by NICE, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence as a treatment for PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.


Detailed information about EMDR is available from the EMDR Association.  Informaton about EMDR for children together with a useful leaflet for parents is also available.