EMDR - Eye Movement Desensitation and Reprocessing


I offer EMDR to clients at my practice in Selsdon, South Croydon or online (more info here). EMDR can be used for clients that are struggling to overcome one or several traumatic experiences as well many other issues. More about trauma here. I am a qualified and accredited EMDR Therapist, and a member of EMDR Association UK, which means I have undertaken accredited EMDR training by the EMDR Academy (accredited by EMDR Europe). I have completed Level 1, 2 and 3. I have also undertaken additional training on attachemed informed/focused EMDR, as well as how to deliver EMDR online. I am supervised by an EMDR Consultant.

The types of issues that EMDR can help with includes:

  • PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)
  • Complicated / traumatic grief
  • Accidents
  • Assaults
  • Domestic violence
  • Combat experience
  • Childbirth trauma
  • Medical or health anxieties
  • Disturbing memories (including non-life-threatening injuries, bullying or harassment, or childhood memories)
  • Childhood abuse (sexual, physical, emotional or neglect) and attachment trauma
  • High levels of anxiety
  • Low self-worth
  • Depression


What is EMDR

EMDR is an acronym for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing. EMDR is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. It was developed by an American clinical psychologist, Dr Francine Shapiro, in the 1980s. It is now a clinically proven therapy, backed up by research, and recognised by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the World Health Organisation, as a treatment of choice for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The NHS also offers it as a treatment for PTSD. It can also help for other presenting issues.


EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma.  When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound.  If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain.  Once the block is removed, healing resumes.


EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes.  The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health.  If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering.  Once the block is removed, healing resumes.


Unlike other therapies that focus on directly altering the emotions, thoughts and responses resulting from traumatic experiences, EMDR therapy focuses directly on the memory, and is intended to change the way that the memory is stored in the brain, thus reducing and eliminating the problematic symptoms.


In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of painful events is transformed on an emotional level.  For instance, a rape victim shifts from feeling horror and self-disgust to holding the firm belief that, “I survived it and I am strong.”  The wounds have not just closed, they have transformed. As a natural outcome of the EMDR therapeutic process, the clients’ thoughts, feelings and behavior are all robust indicators of emotional health and resolution.


EMDR therapy differs from other trauma-focused treatments in that it does not include extended exposure to the distressing memory, detailed descriptions of the trauma, challenging of dysfunctional beliefs or homework assignments.

Professor Paul Miller explains how EMDR works in the brain               

in easy to understand language:                                                                    The importance of bilateral movement for the brain



What happens when doing EMDR


Standard EMDR therapy uses a structured eight-phase approach that includes:


Phase 1: History-taking

This is where I will work with you to really understand  your issues and what it is that you want help with.


Phase 2: Preparation

This is where I explain the process to you and what is going to happen. We will discuss  grounding  and relaxation tools. You will also learn about bilateral stimulation (BLS) to help the right and left brain hemispheres with traumatic memories. You will also be able to activate your Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) to help access positive experiences, images, and thoughts.


Phase 3: Assessment (or Activation) of the target memory

This is when you decide which memory you want to target and will be asked for the image, a negative cognition, and a positive cognition. I willl ask you to rate your positive cognition on a scale of 1-7 and the disturbing target from 0-10 as well as describing the experience (but not in a lot of detail, and sometimes the scales are omitted when I work using an adaptation to the standard protocol).


Phases 4: Processing the memory to adaptive resolution

Eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) are used during this part of the treatment.  Once it has been determined which memory to target first, you will be asked to hold different aspects of that event or thoughts in mind whilst you use a form of bilateral stimulation that you feel most comfortable with:

  • A light bar that is used for the eyes to track  movements back and forth across your field of vision.
  • Hand-held pulsators for tactile stimulation.
  • Headphones for auditory stimuli with clicking or beeping sounds.
  • Gentle tapping (where I tap the outside of your knees) or where you self-tap.
  • For online EMDR you can tap yourself, or use an app for bilateral sound stimulation.

As the bilateral stimulation happens, internal associations arise and you will begin to process the memory and disturbing feelings.

In other words, the bilateral stimulation is getting the brain’s thinking left hemisphere to communicate with its feeling right half. The effect is to create healing connections at emotional, physical and intellectual levels by kick-starting the dreaming-related brain circuitry that makes sense of, and often quite quickly lays to rest, old distress which has until now continued to impact negatively on the present.  This could last for one or several sessions per memory/incident. 


Phase 5: Installation

At this stage, we  will install some positive thoughts around the situation or event.


Phase 6: Body scan

At this is point I will ask you to  check your body for any residual sensations related to the memory.


Phase 7: Closure

Closure will be provided at the end of a processed memory or session for you to feel better compared to the start of the session. You will use the relaxation and grounding exercises from phase two to manage any difficult feelings or bodily sensations that might arise. I will ask you to look after yourself and to notice any new awareness that comes to mind before the next session.


Phase 8: Evaluating treatment results

We  will reevaluate the disturbance levels from your target of the last session to determine if your level is neutral and if your positive cognition is true. If not, we will return to processing. If there is no more distress, we will move to the next memory or complete treatment. Processing of a specific memory is generally completed within one to three sessions.


How long does it take?

EMDR treatment varies in duration, as it will depend on the individual's cirumstances. Single incident adult trauma are often resolved fairly quickly (one specific memory is generally completed within 1-3 sessions), whilst relational childhood trauma will be more complex and take longer due to the amount of incidents and memories, and often requires a lot more preparation to ensure EMDR processing is safe.

How does EMDR work?

No one knows exactly how any form of counselling or psychotherapy works neurobiologically or in the brain. What we do know is that when a person is very upset, the brain cannot process information as it does ordinarily. One moment can become 'frozen in time', and remembering a trauma may feel as bad as going through it the first time because the images, sounds, smells, and feelings have not changed. Such memories have a lasting negative effect that interferes with the way a person sees the world and the way they relate to other people.


EMDR seems to have a direct effect on the way that the brain processes information. Normal information processing is resumed, so following successful EMDR treatment, a person no longer relives the images, sounds, and feelings when the event is brought to mind. You still remember what happened, but it is less upsetting because the emotional charge is processed. One theory is that EMDR appears to be similar to what occurs naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Therefore, EMDR can be thought of as a physiologically based therapy that helps a person see disturbing material in a new and less distressing way.


If you think EMDR might be right for you and you want to start EMDR therapy in Croydon or online, please contact me.


Further information


Here are some useful resources to understand EMDR better:


EMDR in the news

Harper's Bazaar, March 2023:

"EMDR Therapy finally helped me process my trauma"

The Guardian, May 2021:

EMDR: what is the trauma therapy used by Prince Harry?

People, May 2021:

Prince Harry Targets Painful Memories and Trauma in On-Camera EMDR Therapy Session

New York Times, June 2020:

In a crisis, We can learn from trauma therapy.

Huffpost, March 2020:

Curious if EMDR is an effective form of therapy? Here's what to know

Vogue, February 2020:

"What was eddying around me was trauma". How one writer dealt with the pain of her father cutting her out of his life forever".

Metro, September 2019:

What is EMDR therapy as Jameela Jamil reveals she used it to treat her ‘severe PTSD’

Fatherley, March 2019:

EMDR Therapy Provide a Solution for Men Who Won’t Talk About Mental Health

Esquire, October 2018:

The Best Drug I’ve Ever Taken Wasn’t Even a Drug. It Was EMDR Therapy.

The Guardian, September 2018:

Mel B is watching flashing lights to help with trauma. But does EMDR therapy really work?

Huffpost, March 2016:

EMDR Therapy: Why Looking Left-To-Right Repeatedly Could Banish Traumatic Memories

Shared with permission by Trillium Counselling CA.