Jennie Wickenden-Walsh MBACP (Accred) EMDR Europe (Accred) Clinical Supervisor/Consultant

Eye movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a fairly new type of therapy originally established in 1987.  It has found widespread acceptance within the clinical community and is also found in the NICE guidelines.  It is an extremely effective treatment for people who have had traumatic experiences.  It is also useful with emotional and behavioural problems.

Everyone experiences traumatic experiences during their lifetime, some can be physical/psychological or a mixture of the two effects.  Most naturally recover quickly, some do not.  Sometimes the effect of a trauma can stay with us and affect our lives long after the event.  In these cases Specialist help may be needed to aid recovery.


The brain processes information when trauma occurs.  Ordinary memories are formed, usually when something happens your eyes, ears and other senses are the first to respond.  This body information is then stored as memories.  These usually have a story like quality, and contain your impressions and interpretations as well as facts about what happened.

When something dangerous happens, your body and brain respond in a different way.  Your body recognises the emergency and takes protective action; its messages to the brain seem to be put into an emergency store often without going through the normal memory processes.

These experiences – with the original sound thoughts and feelings – are recorded in your brain in the raw unprocessed form.

Sometimes the brain does not process them in the normal way to form ordinary memories.  They are even stored in a different part of the brain.

Traumatic memories seem to become locked into the brain in their raw form.  When these memories are recalled they can be very upsetting.  Sometimes they can be recalled out of the blue causing flashbacks, nightmares and outbursts.  They can make it difficult to deal with ordinary stressful situations in the calm and reasonable way that we normally would.

EMDR is an approach that seems to help ‘unblock’ the brains processing so that traumatic memories can be become “ordinary” memories.  It is believed that alternating left-right stimulation of the brain – like with REM sleep- in which eyes often move from side to side on their own.  The eye movements may help to process the unconscious material.  Through this process memories shift and new images/thoughts/feelings and physical sensations are reported and then the process continues until the original event has lost its strength and is no longer causing any disturbance.

EMDR physical pain work is another method which incorporates the five sensory emotional steps into a single therapeutic process. At the heart of EMDR is a moment where the client is asked to focus on their pain in a detached way. Including how and where they feel is in their body, while simultaneously attending to bilateral stimulation. The process of attending to two things at once is also referred to as a dual attention stimulus (DAS).


Jennie Wickenden Walsh