This page is a printable version of: https://www.iow.nhs.uk/our-services/mental-health-services/emdr.htm
Date: 06 February 2023
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is used to help people recover from distressing events and the problems they have caused (Flashbacks, upsetting thoughts or images). EMDR is recognised by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence as a treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
When a person is involved in a traumatic event, they may feel overwhelmed and their brain may be unable to fully process what is going on. The memory of the even seems to be ‘stuck’ so that it remains very intense and vivid. It has been known that for some patients, whenever the memory comes to mind they can re-experience what they saw, heard, smelt and the full force of the distress again. EMDR is used to help the brain ‘unstick’ and reprocess the memory so that it is no longer so intense.
EMDR also helps to desensitise the person to the emotional impact of the memory. This is so they can think about the event without experiencing such strong feelings. It does this by asking the person to recall the traumatic event while they move their eyes from side to side, hear a sound in each ear alternatively or feel a tap on each hand alternatively. These side-to-side movements seem to effectively stimulate the ‘stuck’ processing system in the brain so that it can reprocess the information more like an ordinary memory, reducing its intensity.