EMDR for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

January 2016 sees the launch of our specialised EMDR service for PTSD and Trauma, so we thought we would share with you how it all works!

For further information about EMDR and our fees please see our EMDR Therapy page


What is PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (known as PTSD), is often associated in people’s minds with soldiers who have seen active duty in war zones. The truth is that it can effect anyone of any age, sex, ethnicity or religion and is more widespread than people know.

What is common to anyone suffering the effects of PTSD are individual intense experiences of or repeated exposure to traumatic events.  So for example, children who are continually bullied can become traumatised, women suffering domestic violence, anyone who has gone through sexual abuse, exposure to public tragedies, such as natural disasters, bombings, the list goes on.

Dealing with PTSD means identifying the symptoms of the disorder and these can vary from person to person, ranging from overt physical symptoms or behaviours, to internalised mental or emotional difficulties, that even close relatives or friends may not always detect. The next step in overcoming PTSD is seeking PTSD treatment.

More often than not, people choose counselling for PTSD because of comments or advice from loved ones who can see that a client is having problems that are not ‘normal’ for that person and it is effecting relationships, or the person suffering can end up in trouble with the law, or coming to the attention of the psychiatric profession, at which time PTSD may be diagnosed.  Sometimes, clients are not aware that they may be suffering from PTSD, but disclose other problems to a counsellor.

For instance, someone who is suffering from post- traumatic stress disorder may be suffering a range symptoms, such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety or stress – specific or free floating
  • Panic Attacks
  • Nervous breakdown
  • Uncontrolled anger
  • Nightmares and flashbacks
  • Dissociation and ‘acting out’
  • Hypervigilance or OCD
  • Shakes and tremors
  • Nightsweats

If you have had symptoms of PTSD for more than a few weeks, then talking to your G.P. is recommended.  They may then refer you to a specialist after their initial assessment.  If you have had symptoms of PTSD for more than four weeks, or have severe symptoms, you will be referred to a mental health specialist for further assessment and treatment, which may include medication and ‘talking therapy’. 


How Can EMDR For PTSD Help?

In a controlled component analysis study of 17 chronic outpatient veterans, using a crossover design, subjects were randomly divided into two EMDR groups, one using eye movement and a control group that used a combination of forced eye fixation, hand taps, and hand waving. Six sessions were administered for a single memory in each condition. Both groups showed significant decreases in self-reported distress, intrusion, and avoidance symptoms.
— Pitman et al. 1996

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy treatment that was originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories.

It enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences.  Repeated studies show that by using EMDR people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference.

During EMDR therapy a specially trained member of the team will support a client to attend to emotionally disturbing material in brief sequential doses while simultaneously focusing on an external stimulus. Directed lateral eye movements are the most commonly used external stimulus but hand-tapping and audio stimulation are often used.

EMDR facilitates the accessing of the traumatic memory network, so that information processing is enhanced, with new associations forged between the traumatic memory and more adaptive memories or information. These new associations are thought to result in complete information processing, new learning, elimination of emotional distress, and development of cognitive insights.


EMDR therapy uses a three pronged protocol:

  1. The past events that have laid the groundwork for dysfunction are processed, forging new associative links with adaptive information
  2. The current circumstances that elicit distress are targeted, and internal and external triggers are desensitised
  3. Imaginal templates of future events are incorporated, to assist the client in acquiring the skills needed for adaptive functioning.

The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health.  If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering.  Once the block is removed, healing resumes.  Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes.

Some studies show that 84%-90% of single-trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder after only three 90-minute sessions.
— http://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/

The Practice MK Can Help

If you think you or someone you are close to is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or has experienced trauma and would like some advice on how to deal with it, or need help, everything you tell our psychologists or counsellors will be in the strictest confidence.  

The Practice MK have expertise in helping clients overcome PTSD and will be happy to answer any questions you may have.  Please feel free to leave us your questions via our contact form and tell us when it will be best to call you back.  Alternatively, please give us a call on: 01908 766526 or email us here: ask@thepracticemk.co.uk