EMDR Therapy

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing, or EMDR therapy, was developed after the chance discovery by an American psychologist, Francine Shapiro, that bilateral eye movements helped her process the disturbance of negative thoughts and memories. This was in 1987, and over the following decade or so, she and her group in America crafted this discovery into an eight-phase protocol designed to maximise therapeutic benefit, and ensure safety and efficacy. Her book on EMDR therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Basic Principles, Protocols, and Procedures, first published in 1995, is now in its third edition (Shapiro, 2018).

A great deal of research has been done on EMDR therapy and its efficacy for the treatment of psychological trauma has been established beyond doubt (Bisson, Roberts, Andrew, Cooper, & Lewis, 2013). As a result, EMDR is now a recommended trauma treatment in many national and international guidelines, for example, those of the World Health Organisation, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, the American Psychiatric Association, the UK Psychological Trauma Society, and the guidelines of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which inform and guide healthcare services provided through the NHS.

You can listen to a BBC Radio 4 interview with an EMDR client by clicking here.

Training to practise EMDR is restricted to fully qualified mental health professionals. In the UK, the training is overseen by the EMDR Association UK & Ireland which sets the standards for training organisations, trainees and qualified EMDR therapists.

Ethical, Affordable EMDR Therapy

In 2017 I trained in EMDR at The EMDR Academy, which is an EMDR Europe accredited training. I am a fully accredited practitioner member of the EMDR Association UK. I’m pleased to offer compassionate and ethical, time-limited EMDR therapy or open-ended psychotherapy which includes EMDR when appropriate. I’m seeing clients online via Zoom or a specialist EMDR video platform called Bilateral Base. Designed to address specific issues, if you would like more information, please contact me by email, text or phone, or send a message through the form on the Contact page. I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.

What happens in EMDR therapy?

Initial sessions cover the assessment process and agreeing with the client what they would like to work on. In subsequent sessions, the reprocess- ing is accomplished by working with images that relate to the trauma. These could be visual images but might also be sounds, smells, tactile memories or other things.

Bilateral stimulation facilitates the processing of an image, usually by following the therapist’s fingers with your eyes as they move their fingers to and fro in front of you for a short time. Other forms of bilateral stimulation may be used if more appropriate, such as tapping on the backs of your hands.

It is not yet fully understood how EMDR works but it is thought to facilitate processing of sensory memories into long-term cognitive memory. The traumatic event then takes up its rightful place in your biographical memory rather than continuing to distress you on a regular or even daily basis.

Maintaining distance

In EMDR therapy, it is not necessary to describe in detail to the therapist every step of what happened in the traumatic event being worked with. Nor is it necessary to relive the event over and over again as an essential part of the therapeutic process.

This is an important difference from some other forms of trauma-focused treatments.

For individual memories that you may find particularly difficult to talk about, it is possible not to tell the therapist anything about that memory at all, and still do an EMDR session on it. This would not perhaps be the best way to work with all the aspects of an entire traumatic event, but it is a possibility for individual memories. This can help to maintain a greater sense of privacy and distance from the trauma.

How long does it take?

It’s really difficult to say how many sessions an individual might need. EMDR is usually a short-term therapy which could be something like six, twelve or sixteen sessions, for example, for single event traumas. Where there is complex trauma it could take considerably longer. Sessions are usually at a frequency of once or twice a week to allow time for processing between sessions. Individual sessions may be 50-90 minutes long, which can be discussed at the assessment stage. EMDR can, however, be embedded in a longer term, open-ended therapy, to be used in addition to other appropriate techniques.

For clients who are already working with a counsellor who does not practise EMDR, it is possible to see an EMDR therapist on a short-term basis to address a particular issue, and then return to one’s regular counsellor. This would, of course, need to be agreed with the client and both therapists beforehand.

Make an Enquiry

If you would like more information about psychological therapy and how we may be able to work together to address your concerns,
you are warmly invited to call, email, or message me through the form on the Contact page.

07801 273768 / info@karenjwilliams.co.uk


Bisson, J. I., Roberts, N. P., Andrew, M., Cooper, R., & Lewis, C.  (2013). Psychological therapies for chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adults (review). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 12. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003388.pub4

Shapiro, F. (2018). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy: Basic principles, protocols, and procedures (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.