Frequently asked questions about EMDR therapy


EMDR therapy is largely based on traditional psychological theories but has a unique element called bilateral stimulations.  These can be eye movements, but therapists could also use bilateral tones and/or tapping. These bilateral stimulations are similar to the processing that the human mind performs during REM sleep, when the eyes move rapidly back and forth.

EMDR is based on an idea that the brain’s natural way of processing information gets blocked when traumatic or adverse events occur, causing these events to get locked in the brain with the original picture, sounds, smells, thoughts, feelings and body sensations. The experience doesn’t get efficiently processed like other memories and although the event may have happened months or years ago its intensity is never reduced.  This experience continues to impact daily life through post-traumatic symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, distressing images or physical sensations, negative thoughts, feelings of guilt and shame, avoidance and emotional numbing. This can lead to the person becoming isolated and withdrawn, or feeling ‘on edge’ leading to irritability, angry outbursts, sleeping problems or difficulty concentrating. It sometimes leads to work-related problems and the breakdown of relationships.

For more information on EMDR, visit the EMDR Institute at and the EMDR International Association at


EMDR therapy with its bilateral stimulations works on helping the brain reprocess these traumatic memories, and can therefore help alleviate emotional and psychological disorders. EMDR differs from other therapies in that it is not necessary to provide explicit details of the original experience, which can be very painful for the client. The experience loses its intensity and becomes just another memory the client can access with appropriate levels of emotion but no distress.  Negative thoughts and feelings are replaced with positive thoughts and feelings that will encourage healthier behaviour and social interactions – as clients learn to handle stressful situations themselves.

EMDR therapy is recognised by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and the World Health Organisation as an effective treatment for children and adolescents who have experienced traumatic events.