Resolve Traumatic Memories And Boost Your Mental Health With EMDR


According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, around one third of adults in England have experienced at least one traumatic event during their lifetime.

Our bodies know how to heal a physical wound, but it’s not always the same for the mind. Emotional pain can take a lot longer to overcome, even with the use of talk therapy. 

That’s why many people are now turning to eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing, better known as EMDR. 

This relatively new therapy has been proven to successfully resolve unprocessed traumatic memories in the brain, allowing people to move past traumatic events and life fuller, happier lives. 

What Is Eye Movement Desensitisation And Reprocessing?

EMDR is a structured therapy developed by clinician Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s after she discovered a link between persistent, traumatic memories and a patient’s rapid eye movement.

She theorised that highly disturbing or distressing events such as trauma disrupted the normal, smooth storage of memories by our brain. Our brain perceived that the danger connected to the event was not over, blocking the natural healing process. 

In addition, Dr Shapiro found the brain could be triggered by subsequent events, reinforcing the highly negative emotions and body sensations linked to the original trauma memories, compounding the problem.   

EMDR therapy has been successfully used by thousands of people worldwide. It has been recognised as effective in treating trauma by professional bodies including the World Health Organization, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, and the American Psychiatric Association.

What Mental Health Issues Can Emdr Therapy Help With?

Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing therapy was initially found to be a powerful therapy in people dealing with post traumatic stress disorder. 

Studies revealed EMDR can be faster than other therapies, and it has since been expanded to help children and adults with a wide range of mental health issues: 

  • Anxiety, panic attacks and phobias
  • Acute stress disorder, PTSD and adjustment disorder
  • Depression and/or bipolar disorders
  • Dissociative and/or personality disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Chronic illness and pain
  • Grief and/or loss
  • Sexual assault
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Violence and abuse

How Does It Work?

It is important to note that EMDR therapy should only be practised only by a trained and licensed mental health professional. 

This effective treatment helps patients reprocess painful events or other distressing life experiences that have impacted their mental health, including negative emotions and body sensations. 

EMDR therapy aims to instil positive belief, and covers eight phases: 

History taking

During this stage, I will gather information about you, including why you are seeking treatment and what your aims are. 

Be aware that it will involve asking questions about any disturbing memories or a particular distressing event that you want to focus on. If I decide that EMDR therapy is a suitable treatment, I will devise a tailored treatment plan. 

Client preparation

As the name suggests, this second phase of EMDR therapy is when I prepare patients for the processing of traumatic memories. 

I will inform them about what they can expect, and will give them a variety of tools to ensure they can deal with any hard or upsetting emotions that emerge while focusing on a targeted memory. 


When the required preparations are complete, we can then talk about the traumatic events or circumstances the client wants to address with EMDR therapy. It will include going over the event in detail and the emotions or any body sensation connected to it. 

The client will also be asked about negative beliefs linked to the trauma as well as any positive beliefs they want to carry forward.  


This stage of EMDR therapy involves accessing a distressing issue or traumatic memories while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation.  

This is typically eye movements that are similar to the rapid eye movement we make while dreaming. It can also include tapping either side of the body or listening to sounds in headphones that alternate from one ear to the other.

This left-right stimulation of the brain opens up the subconscious mind and enables you to process stored memories and their emotional impact on patients. 


At this point in the EMDR therapy, I will ask the client to continue with their eye movements, while also focusing on a positive belief that will become attached to the previously distressing memories. 

In combination with the bilateral stimulation, that belief will be strengthened, with the eventual goal of making it more powerful than the traumatic memory. 

Body scan

At this stage, I will ask the client to think about the traumatic experiences they sought to overcome with EMDR therapy, while at the same time paying close attention to any physical responses. 

As the EMDR sessions continue, there should be zero negative symptoms in the body.


It is vital not to skip this part of the EMDR therapy to ensure the negative memory is treated effectively. 

As an EMDR therapist, I use the closure session to talk about how a client;s distressing life experiences have been processed, and how they feel about them after EMDR therapy. 

I will also provide them with self-calming tools to help them if any negative thoughts arise before the next session. 


Although this is the final stage in the EMDR treatment process, it’s often the start of a new journey for the client and myself. 

We will discuss any new memories, feelings, or thoughts that have emerged, whether the treatment effects have stayed in place, or whether other therapies, such as hypnotherapy, might be needed.  

What Happens During An EMDR Session?

Despite being a relatively new therapy, there have already been changes to the delivery of EMDR, particularly the desensitisation phase. 

Initially, clinicians would hold up their hand, extend two fingers and request the patient follow the tips of their fingers with side-to-side eye movements, while focusing on the disturbing event. 

Today, there is an array of specialised devices, using light and sound. Some EMDR therapists may tap on a patient’s hands, arms or thighs or ask them to hold a device that pulses in their hands.

In the initial phases, sessions last just under 90 minutes and subsequently are 55 minutes long, and as you progress through the phases, you will be asked to rank your levels of distress after recalling a trauma memory. 

The aim is for the patient to be treated successfully and have no distress by the end of the therapy. 

How Long Does It Take For Emdr Therapy To Work?

The duration of EMDR therapy, just as with other forms of mental health treatment, varies from patient to patient. 

It can depend on the nature of the trauma or disturbing event, the depth of the negative belief, and their particular behavioural difficulties. 

Studies have shown that up to 90% of single-trauma victims no longer had post traumatic stress disorder after just three 90-minute sessions of EMDR treatment. 

Another found that 100% of single-trauma victims and 77% of multiple trauma victims were PTSD-free after six 50-minute EMDR therapy sessions, while 77% of combat veterans overcame their post traumatic stress disorder in 12 sessions.

It is clear that some patients need fewer sessions than others but there is no denying that EMDR works. 

Book Your EMDR Therapy Today

If you want to let go of a trauma that is holding you back and find out whether EMDR therapy will be right for you, I’m ready to help. 

You can find me at Cambridge-based Salus Wellness Clinics on Thursdays and at Coach House Health Care on Fridays. 

Click here to book an initial conversation to discuss your EMDR therapy.  

Let me help get you back on the road to a healthier, happier life.

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