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What Is EMDR?

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing. EMDR is a powerful psychological treatment that was developed by an American clinical psychologist, Dr Francine Shapiro, a Senior Research Fellow at the Mental Research Institute. Dr Shapiro published the first research to support the benefits of the therapy in 1989. Since this time, the effectiveness and efficacy of EMDR has been researched extensively.

EMDR is a complex and powerful therapy. Therapists always have a background in mental health before undertaking training in EMDR. EMDR is recommended by NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellent) for the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder however there is growing evidence for its efficacy in treating a wide range of difficulties including performance anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and generalised anxiety disorder, depression, inhibited grief and somatic problems (e.g. migraine, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome).

How Does EMDR Work?

EMDR seems to directly influence the way that the brain functions. It helps to restore normal ways of dealing with problems (i.e. information processing). Following successful EMDR treatment, memories of difficult events are no longer painful when brought to mind. What happened can still be recalled, but it is no longer upsetting. EMDR appears to mimic what the brain does naturally during dreaming or REM (Rapid Eye Movements) sleep. EMDR can be thought of as an inherently natural therapy which assists the brain in working through distressing material utilising a natural process, this is called Adaptive Information Processing.

What Happens During EMDR?

After taking a thorough history, disturbing memories are identified and agreed as targets for reprocessing. The EMDR therapist leads you through repeated left-right (bilateral) stimulation of the brain either through tracking eye movements or tapping while noticing different aspects of the memory. It is believed that this bilateral stimulation creates biochemical changes in the brain that aid the processing of information.

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