When anxiety and distress has its roots in a traumatic event, Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) can be a very powerful therapy. Sometimes the memory of such an event stays fixed in the mind with an intensity that means its psychological impact does not fade with time.
EMDR harnesses the way in which the human brain normally turns an experience into a memory. The therapy aims to make the memory less psychologically intense, allowing the traumatic event to be recalled in a different way. EMDR doesn’t erase the memory, but helps to position it within a lifetime of experience and memories so the trauma no longer dominates. Getting the event into perspective helps to stop the anxiety.
For those unfamiliar with the technique, the method may seem surprising, but it’s highly effective and recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and the World Health Organisation. Following in-depth assessment, history taking and preparation, the therapist will ask the client to recall the traumatic event while directing them to move their eyes from side to side in a particular way. Some clients prefer tapping or sounds to achieve the same effect. In all cases, the combinations of recall and physical stimulus help the mind reprocess the memory in a much healthier way.
For more information, visit the websites of the professional associations EMDR UK and Ireland (https://emdrassociation.org.uk/), EMDR Europe (https://emdr-europe.org/) and EMDR International Association (https://www.emdria.org/).
EMDR can be very effective and achieve good results very quickly – but it isn’t suitable for everyone. It’s widely used for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and can be an effective therapy for a range of mental health conditions.