World Health Organization (WHO) recommends EMDR in new guidelines (WHO 2013)

WHO recommends referring people suffering from post-traumatic stress to advanced treatments such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) or a new approach called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Trauma focused CBT and EMDR therapy are recommended for children, adolescents and adults with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

EMDR is a therapy that has been shown to be very effective in working with people who have experienced severe trauma. EMDR is now recognised as a treatment of choice in working with adults with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). (IACP 2018)

EMDR is not simply the use of eye movements. Rather it is a comprehensive therapeutic approach with principles, protocols and procedures with the goal of reducing distress in the shortest period of time. A wealth of research has been conducted demonstrating its benefits in treating psychological trauma arising from experiences as diverse as war related experiences, childhood sexual and/or physical abuse or neglect, natural disaster, assault, surgical trauma, road traffic accidents and workplace accidents. Since its original development, EMDR is also increasingly used to help individuals with other issues and performance anxiety. EMDR has been found to be of benefit to children as well as adults.

When a person is involved in a distressing event, they may feel overwhelmed and their brain may be unable to process the information like a normal memory. The distressing memory seems to become frozen on a neurological level. When a person recalls the distressing memory, the person can re-experience what they saw, heard, smelt, tasted or felt, and this can be quite intense. Sometimes the memories are so distressing the person tries to avoid thinking about the distressing event to avoid experiencing the distressing feelings.

The alternating left-right stimulation of the brain with eye movements, sounds or taps during EMDR, seems to stimulate the frozen or blocked information processing system. In the process the distressing memories seem to lose their intensity, so that the memories are less distressing and seem more like ‘ordinary’ memories. (EMDR UK & IRELAND)