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What is EMDR?

Francine Shapiro who discovered that the body has a natural psychological healing process that helps to deal with day-to-day stresses and minor traumas originally developed Eye Movement desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) in 1987. Much of this natural healing process has been found to occur during sleep, particularly during that period of sleep when we experience rapid eye movement (REM).

Initially it was used mainly as a treatment for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, since then, EMDR has evolved into a highly effective therapeutic technique for a wide range of problems.

In 1987, Francine Shapiro used this insight to developed Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), The mind has the capacity to heal itself just as the body can. When something happens that we find traumatising (such as a car accident) or when we are repeatedly subjected to distress (such as childhood abuse or neglect) our natural coping mechanism (which normally processes new experiences or events easily) can become overloaded. This ‘overloading’ can result in some experiences remaining ‘unprocessed’ or stuck. What this means is that certain events or feelings can trigger a re-experiencing of the original trauma’ which can, in turn, effect our ability to live and learn from new experiences in the present.

What can EMDR be used for?

In addition to its use for the treatment of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, EMDR has been successfully used to treat:

  • anxiety and panic attacks
  • depression
  • stress
  • phobias
  • sleep problems
  • complicated grief
  • addictions
  • pain relief, phantom limb pain
  • self-esteem and performance anxiety
  • Trauma (resulting from accidents, disasters and emotional distress)
  • Bereavement
  • Addiction and substance abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Depression
  • Phobias
  • Abuse (verbal, physical and sexual)
  • Self-esteem issues

What is an EMDR session like?

After a thorough assessment, that includes specific questions about your particular disturbing memory or problem, eye movements, similar to those during REM sleep, will be recreated simply by asking you to watch the therapist's finger or hand moving backwards and forwards across your visual field. The eye movements will last for a short while and then stop. You will then be asked to report back on the experiences you have had during each of these sets of eye movements. Experiences during a session may include changes in thoughts, images and feelings about the specific event.

Sometimes there is a generalised effect where other related difficulties are also improved.

With repeated eye movements, the disturbing event or memory no longer has the same intensity as it did when it originally happened. Neither is it forgotten. Instead, it becomes neutral and simply remembered rather than re-experienced as if it were happening again.

EMDR sessions can be for 60 to 90 minutes.


Can anyone benefit from EMDR?

EMDR can accelerate therapy by resolving the impact of your past traumas and allowing you to live more fully in the present. It is not, however, appropriate for everyone. The process is rapid, and any disturbing experiences, if they occur at all, last for a comparatively short period of time. Nevertheless, you need to be aware of, and willing to experience, the strong feelings and disturbing thoughts, which sometimes occur during sessions.


Will I will remain in control and empowered?

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. Throughout the session, the therapist will support and facilitate your own self-healing and intervene as little as possible. Reprocessing is usually experienced as something that happens spontaneously, and new connections and insights are felt to arise quite naturally from within. As a result, most people experience EMDR as being a natural and very empowering therapy.

To find out more E-mail: info@cathymcdermott.com



Our sessions are confidential and will not be discussed with anyone without your agreement unless there is a requirement by law to do so or if there is a risk of serious harm to yourself or others. However, in the unlikely event that this might happen I would fully discuss the matter with you first

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