EMDR is in Vogue - so is it for you?

There have been many articles about celebrities using EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) in the last few years. Difficult life experiences happen to all of us, from all walks of life and so if you have been suffering from emotional and mental health problems read on.

What is EMDR?

EMDR, is an integrative therapy used to help people come to terms with difficult experiences which have happened to them. A person may have witnessed or directly experienced distressing or traumatic events such as:

  • car accidents
  • medical treatments
  • a violent and/or sexual crime
  • domestic violence
  • childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse and neglect
  • racism
  • bullying
  • social humiliation
  • the sudden loss of a loved one
  • natural disasters
  • combat trauma

EMDR can help in reducing or eliminating some of the consequences of disturbing and traumatic life events, symptoms such as

  • flashbacks
  • nightmares
  • upsetting and intrusive thoughts or images
  • avoidance
  • heightened anxiety
  • hypervigilance
  • increased startle responses
  • depression
  • negative view of oneself
  • impaired personal and family relationships

It can be used to gradually heal from traumatic events. It can also improve functioning in the future, like with an adjustment to a loss, fear of exams or interviews and other challenges.

Who can EMDR help?

EMDR is recognised as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex post-traumatic stress disorder (cPTSD) by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence NICE, 2018 and by the World Health Organisation WHO.

EMDR is also used to help with a variety of other emotional and mental health problems such as:

  • anxiety & panic disorders and phobias1
  • depression 2
  • addictions stemming from trauma 3
  • chronic pain 4
  • eating disorders 5

Prince Harry being one of the main sources of publicity, and his therapist Sanja Oakley, EMDR consultant with the EMDR Association UK, was interviewed by Amel Muhtar, What is EMDR, The Therapy Miely Cyrus (And Prince Harry) Swear By?, published on 19 May 2023 by British Vogue.

What can EMDR achieve?

When a person is involved in a traumatising event, they tend to feel overwhelmed and their mind may find it very difficult to process what is going on at the time. Memories of the traumatising event seem to become “blocked” and in this way the memories remain in the mind in a very intense and vivid form. These traumatic memories are often re-experienced with the full force of the distress the person felt and with very vivid memories of what they saw, heard and smelt when they experienced the original trauma.

EMDR aims to help a person to unblock and reprocess traumatic memories so that these memories can become more liveable with in the brain so that they are no longer so intense, disturbing and impactful. EMDR can also help people to become more desensitised to the emotional impact of the memory, so that they become more able to think about and talk about the traumatic event without being overwhelmed by strong feelings. As part of EMDR therapy, when past distressing events are processed, the therapist helps with managing current and potential future triggers to the original trauma, so that the person becomes more resourced and confident to deal with current and future challenges.


For more information about EMDR and its clinical effectiveness please visit:

Valiente-Gómez, A., Moreno-Alcázar, A., Treen, T., Cedrón, C., Colom, F., Pérez, V., Amann, Front Psychol McGowan, I.W., Fisher, N., Havens, McGowan, I. W,

[Valiente-Gómez, A., Moreno-Alcázar, A., Treen, T., Cedrón, C., Colom, F., Pérez, V. & Amann, B.L. (2017). EMDR beyond PTSD: A Systematic Literature Review Front Psychol,8: 1668. Published online.]

[McGowan,I.W., Fisher, N., Havens, J. & Proudlock, S. (2021). An evaluation of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy delivered remotely during the Covid–19 pandemic. BMC Psychiatry,21: 560. Published online.]

EMDR Association UK

EMDR International Association

  1. e.g. Faretta, E., & Dal Farra, M. (2019). Efficacy of EMDR Therapy for Anxiety Disorders. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 13(4), 325–332. ↩︎

  2. e.g. Sepehry, A. A., Lam, K., Sheppard, M., Guirguis-Younger, M., & Maglio, A.-S. (2021). EMDR for Depression: A Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 15(1), 2–17. ↩︎

  3. e.g. Perez-Dandieu B.,& Tapia G. (2014). Treating trauma in addiction with EMDR: a pilot study. J. Psychoactive Drugs 46, 303–309. ↩︎

  4. e.g. Gerhardt A. (2016). Eye Movement Desensitization and reprocessing vs. treatment-as-usual for non-specific chronic back pain patients with psychological trauma: a randomized controlled pilot study. Front. Psychiatry 7:201. ↩︎

  5. e.g. Balbo, M., Zaccagnino, M., Cussino, M., & Civiiotti, C. (2017). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and eating disorders: A systematic review. Clinical Neuropsychiatry: Journal of Treatment Evaluation, 14(5), 321–329 ↩︎