A comprehensive overview of Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR)

Dr Millia Begum

60 minutes


November 2021

CPD domain:

Learning module


Traumatic life events are fairly ubiquitous in the general population. Results from the 2001-2012 World Health Organization (WHO) World Mental Health (WMH) epidemiological survey, involving 24 countries and 68,894 participants, found that more than 70% of respondents reported a traumatic lifetime event, with around a third having been exposed to four or more traumatic events (Benjet et al, 2016). It is known that certain types of traumatic events are more likely to generate post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than others.

However, PTSD is only one of the manifestations of exposure to a traumatic event. Trauma exposure may influence the onset and prognosis of other mental disorders.

The detection of PTSD may seem simple, however a systematic review of literature has shown a high proportion of undetected PTSD in secondary care services, particularly among in-patients and those with psychotic disorders (Zamit et al, 2018). This generates concern as PTSD is a treatable condition. If left untreated, persistent PTSD carries a higher magnitude of disability, compromising functioning even in later life (Byers, 2014). Several authors have highlighted the need for training mental health clinicians in assessment/formulation and delivering appropriate intervention for PTSD clients. It has been suggested that trauma-related topics should be given prominence in psychiatry curricula, as well as psychiatrist training (Da Silva et al, 2018).

In this module we will:

• provide an overview of various concepts of trauma in mental health,

• highlight the impact of childhood adversities and trauma on mental health,

• provide an overview of Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, one of the evidence-based therapies for PTSD,

• touch upon the more recent diagnosis of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) in ICD-11 and recommendations for the same.


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