EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) EMDR is recommended by NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) for the treatment of PTSD.

EMDR is a psychotherapy that enables recovery from traumatic experiences that the mind and body are struggling to process. Whilst the impact of a traumatic experience will often diminish over time, where trauma is severe, prolonged, or where the nervous system of the person effected is already under strain, the natural healing process does not occur.

Trauma may refer to experiencing, or witnessing, a life threatening single incident eg a road traffic accident, a violent episode or rape. Or it may be the enduring, complex trauma of sexual, physical or psychological abuse (as an adult or child) or of childhood neglect, or disorganised attachment.

Where the impact of trauma persists, the body mind system is blocked, and aspects of the traumatic event continue to effect the individual who may be triggered into states of panic, rage, or may feel shut down and emotionally numb. These triggers can be small, and sometimes not obviously related; it may be a noise, a smell or light that relates in some way to the incident. A visual flashback of aspects of the trauma may be experienced, or it may be that the memory of the trauma is less explict, but experienced implicitly in the distress of the body in response to some visual or auditory aspect of the original trauma. It is as if the traumatic experience is still happening. This is because during the original trauma, the parts of the brain that place an experience in a time and a place are ovewhelmed and the traumatic incident cannot be placed properly in the past.

In EMDR, eye movements are used to utilise the safe processing of a distressing event, but in a way whereby the individual is not overwhelmed. Whilst the indvidual tracks the hand of the therapist moving across the field of vision, back and forth, aspects of the traumatic memory can be processed and the trauma can be recognised as belonging to the past. There is a body of research suggesting that the eye movements replicate those during REM phases of sleep, where dreams process psychological material. The bilateral stimulation also engages the brain in low level activity, or dual attention, so that the trauma can be processed in a less heightened way.

The length of treatment will vary, depending of the severity of the trauma. Where trauma relates to a single incident, in an otherwise stable enough life, it could be worked through in 6-10 sessions. Where the trauma has been longer term, has originated in childhood, or where there have been multiple traumas, the work will take much longer. In this case EMDR will be integrated into longer term psychotherapy.

When considering shorter term EMDR therapy I would always take a full history, in order to assess how we would work together.