The mind can often heal itself naturally, in the same way the body does. Much of this occurs during sleep, particularly during the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep. Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) was developed in 1987, utilising this natural process in order to successfully treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Since then, EMDR has been used to effectively treat a wide range of mental health problems.

What happens when you experience a disturbing or traumatic event?

Most of the time your body routinely manages new information and experiences without you being aware of it. However, when an event is accompanied by a high level of distress or you experience a trauma, your natural coping mechanism can become overloaded. This overloading can result in disturbing experiences remaining unprocessed in the neural memory networks in the limbic system of your brain. The limbic system maintains traumatic memories in an isolated memory network associated with emotions and physical sensations, disconnected from the cortex where we can adaptively make sense of the information. The traumatic memories in the limbic system can be continually triggered when you experience events similar to the original distressing event. Often the memory itself is long forgotten, but the painful feelings such as anxiety, panic, anger or despair are continually triggered in the present. EMDR helps create the connections between memory networks, enabling your brain to appropriately process the distressing or traumatic memory.

What is an EMDR session like?

After your initial assessment at The Psychology Clinic, you will be asked questions about a specific disturbing memory. Eye movements, similar to those during REM sleep, will be recreated simply by asking you to watch the therapist's finger moving backwards and forwards across your visual field. Sometimes a bar of moving lights is used instead. The eye movements will last for a short while and then stop. You will then be asked to report on the experiences you had during each of these sets of eye movements. Experiences during a session may include changes in thoughts, images and feelings. With repeated sets of eye movements the painful intensity of the memory will reduce, becoming a neutral memory of an event in the past. Other associated memories may also be modified at the same time. The linking of related memories can lead to a dramatic shift in your perceptions and interpretations, resulting in adjustments to how you feel and think.

What can EMDR be used for?

In addition to the use of EMDR in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, EMDR has been successfully used to treat:


  • anxiety and panic attacks
  • sleep problems
  • depression
  • complicated grief
  • stress
  • self-esteem & performance anxiety
  • phobias
  • pain relief and phantom limb pain
  • addictions

Can anyone benefit from EMDR?

EMDR can accelerate therapy by resolving the impact of past experiences thereby allowing you to live more fully in the present. EMDR is not appropriate for everyone. Your suitability for EMDR will be assessed at the beginning of treatment. The EMDR process is rapid, and any disturbing experiences during treatment last for a comparatively short period of time.

How long does treatment take?

EMDR can be brief focused treatment or part of a longer psychotherapy programme with each EMDR session at The Psychology Clinic lasting 50-minutes. This will be discussed with you during your assessment.

Will I remain in control during the session?

During EMDR treatment you will remain in control, fully alert and wide-awake. This is not a form of hypnosis and you can stop the process at any time. Reprocessing is usually experienced as something that happens spontaneously, and new connections and insights are felt to arise quite naturally and without conscious effort.

What evidence is there that EMDR is a successful treatment?

EMDR is an innovative clinical treatment which has successfully helped over a million individuals. The validity and reliability of EMDR has been established by rigorous research. There are now nineteen controlled studies into EMDR making it the most thoroughly researched method used in the treatment of trauma (see details on and and is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) as an effective treatment for PTSD.

To arrange an appointment or to discuss whether EMDR may be suitable for you please call Irenie Phillips, Practice Secretary, on 07561 371 053 or e-mail Irenie on


"After two sessions of EMDR therapy with Dr Collins I addressed a 43 year old trauma which I had not been able to manage before. I am now able to cope with the memory of the trauma and my feelings now feel balanced and very manageable."
Client suffering from depression resulting from a childhood trauma.