• Question: How effective is EMDR? Are there any other techniques used to treat trauma in prisoners?

    Asked by very cool to Sally on 14 Mar 2019.
    • Photo: Sally Tilt

      Sally Tilt answered on 14 Mar 2019:


      It’s a really good question – and one on which not all psychologists would hold the same view. EMDR involves using eye movement while thinking about the traumatic event in the person’s history. Other therapies used to treat trauma are often CBT (cognitive behavioural therapies) based therapies – in which the person is encouraged to think or talk through their traumatic event – in a safe and supportive way. The research suggests that both of these techniques can have a positive effect on a person’s experience of the trauma. It is thought that both techniques, work through the process of exposure – by gradually increasing the exposure to the thing that is causing anxiety or fear (think about how to treat a fear of spiders – gradually encouraging the person to get closer to a spider in a room until they are able to hold it)- over a period the person’s emotional reaction to the traumatic event lessons.

      So although EMDR seems to be effective, some people have suggested that the eye movement part is not as important as the exposure element of the treatment – and suggest that the treatment could be just as effective by talking through the trauma. The NHS now recognise EMDR as an effective treatment – and lots of people continue to benefit from it.

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