EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a therapy technique developed by Francine Shapiro in 1987.
It has a sound evidence base for treating traumatic memories and is recommended in the NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) and WHO (World Health Organisation) guidelines for treating PTSD.
Based on the “adaptive information processing” model – EMDR assumes that our brain has a natural inclination to heal pain and distress – if we think about the painful memories from our school years, unless they are incredibly distressing, whilst most felt awful then, now they cause us little distress – over time our brains heal this pain.
However, in certain Traumatic situations, where we are fearful of our life or feel extreme distress, our brains encode memories differently. – from a survival, threat focused position. This means that we can be left with unprocessed memories and residual sensory fractured memories. This can lead to the sense that we are reliving these painful memories again when we think back and can cause flashbacks and nightmares.
EMDR helps people to process these painful, traumatic memories and consolidate the fractured sensory parts. This involves what is known as Bilateral Processing where a person usually follows a pen horizontally with their eyes or follows tapping across their hands.