Helen Hadden Psychotherapist

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR therapy, developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1987, revolutionised mental health treatment with its unique approach to processing trauma. EMDR may be used alongside talking therapy. It may also be offered as a stand-alone, shorter-term treatment of 6 to 12 sessions on average. Each session is 90 minutes in duration. 

If we agree that EMDR therapy is a good fit, the beginning sessions will involve discussing what you would like to work on and improving your ability to manage distress. When ready for the subsequent phases of EMDR therapy, you will be asked to select a specific event, memory, or distressing experience to focus on. Using what we refer to as 'bilateral sets', I will ask you to explore a negative belief, emotion, bodily feeling, or image related to the event. Bi-lateral sets may consist of side-to-side eye movements, sounds, or hand-held buzzers.  You are guided to notice what comes to mind after each set, particularly shifts in insight or changes in feelings, beliefs, memories or images regarding the event. You remain in complete control and can stop at any point if needed. The sets of eye movements, sounds, or taps are repeated until the event becomes less disturbing, and we work to instil a positive belief around the memory. Processing may continue after the session, and clients often make a note of emerging feelings, memories, or dreams to discuss or process during the next session.

If you are curious, there are many EMDR sessions available online, such as the one provided by the EMDR International Association: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQAUzUN0UGY.

How EMDR works

EMDR was initially developed by a psychotherapist called Dr Francine Shapiro as a way to resolve the impact of traumatic memories and other adverse life experiences. Now, ongoing research supports positive and broad clinical outcomes, showing EMDR therapy as a helpful treatment for disorders such as anxiety, depression, OCD, chronic pain, addictions, and other distressing life experiences (Maxfield, 2019). In treating trauma, EMDR therapy has even been cited as superior to the anti-depressant fluoxetine (Van der Kolk et al., 2007). 

EMDR facilitates accessing and processing of adverse life experiences and traumatic memories, relieving distress, re-formulating negative beliefs, and reducing the physicological arousal that can occur if your mind 'takes you back' to difficult times, as though re-living the distress. New associations are forged between traumatic memories and more adaptive memories or information, thought to result in complete information processing, new learning, elimination of emotional distress, and development of cognitive insights. Over the years, it gained global recognition and acceptance, leading to widespread adoption in therapeutic practices. Today, EMDR is a well-researched, evidence-based method, continuously evolving with advancements in psychology and neuroscience. EMDR is recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).


Portobello Psychotherapy,266 Basement Floor, Ladbroke Grove,London, W10 5LP.


Psychotherapist Helen Hadden

Helen Hadden Psychotherapist