EMDR Therapy Explained

Prince Harry was filmed undergoing EMDR therapy during an episode of ‘The Me You Can’t See’, a five-part series about mental health shown on Apple TV in 2021.

In this episode, the prince described how he had used EMDR to help him deal with a “nightmare time” in his life, which has sparked renewed interest in the therapy.

As a trained EMDR practitioner and Employee Support Coach, I have witnessed the transformative results of this ground-breaking therapy on countless occasions, through my work with employees over the years. 

However, many organisations remain unaware of what EMDR therapy involves, and how it could help prevent them from losing some of their most talented employees.

So, in order to clarify and help clear any confusion, I have answered some of the most common questions I am asked about EMDR.

View all our EMDR trauma support resources by going to our downloads page.

What is EMDR?

Developed in the 1980s by the US psychotherapist Francine Shapiro, EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing.

EMDR is a form of therapy that is used to help people recover from trauma caused by distressing past events.  It is recognised by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) also recognises EMDR as an effective therapy.

What trauma can EMDR help with?

Distressing life experiences, such as being involved in an accident, a surprise bereavement, or witnessing a terrorist attack, can leave a lasting negative imprint on the brain.

Employees may also show signs of emotional trauma following the loss of a baby, a divorce, or even an upsetting incident at work.

Such distressing experiences may not have occurred recently.  For example, Prince Harry described how EMDR helped him deal with the discomfort he experienced when travelling to London as an adult, which he said reminded him of the loss of his mother many years before.

What signs should I look out for in my employees?

The following symptoms could indicate that an employee has unprocessed negative memories of an emotional issue:

  • Anger or impatience towards colleagues
  • Seeming sad or anxious (perhaps bursting into tears for no apparent reason)
  • Predicting the worst possible outcome in work situations
  • Avoiding colleagues or work events they would usually enjoy
  • Appearing physically restless
  • Fear of speaking out at work

How does EMDR work?

EMDR helps the brain to reprocess a distressing memory, which reduces its intensity, and desensitises its emotional impact.

A trained EMDR therapist will ask the person to recall the traumatic event, as they move their eyes from side-to-side (other techniques could involve hearing a sound in each ear, or feeling a tap on each hand.) 

These sensations work to ‘unstick’ the brain’s processing system, so the event is able to become more of an ordinary memory, rather than a source of emotional trauma.

There is no hypnosis or drawn-out discussion involved, and the person is fully conscious throughout each session, which will typically last from 60 – 90 minutes.

What are the benefits of EMDR?

Often, EMDR brings immediate results, with many people reporting that they feel a sense of calm after just one session. 

While the number of sessions needed will vary from person to person, EMDR works quickly in most cases, with controlled studies showing that a single trauma can be processed within 3-4 sessions in 80–90% of participants.

In this way, EMDR works much faster than talking therapies, which can be complicated, and more focused on reliving painful events in depth.

EMDR also creates self-healing in the following days and weeks, which helps people to build emotional resilience, frees them from unwanted emotions, and allows them to let go and move forwards with life and work.

How can I find out more about EMDR?

As trained trauma, PTSD specialists and EMDR therapists, we would be happy to answer any further questions about this transformative therapy in general, or to confidentially discuss your concerns about a particular employee.

Contact us here to arrange a no-obligation chat.


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