EMDR in the NHS

Since the World Health Organization’s endorsement of Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK is now offering EMDR as an alternative to counselling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to support people struggling with psychological trauma and other mental health problems. The evidence shows that EMDR resolves psychological trauma  in  77- 90% of cases  after 3 to 7 sessions.  A broadcast interview by the BBC also shows how EMDR can alleviate the effects of stress caused by a wide range of events and life experiences

In spite of this, General Practitioners and other health professionals who wish to refer patients for EMDR are finding it difficult to access the treatment they consider best for  their patients, as there is a very limited number of trained EMDR practitioners working in the NHS.

In East Sussex county which has a population over 800 000 inhabitants, there are currently only 10 therapists offering EMDR in the NHS and the situation is similar or worse in other Trusts nationwide.

The NHS is mainly offering CBT for mild to complex anxiety, depression and trauma, but the current recovery rate is about 50% so offering EMDR more extensively makes sense.  EMDR is not only very effective, but also cost effective, as it usually works faster than CBT. This time savings also makes it possible to reduce the waiting list: presently, patients must often wait for 3 months to a year before receiving treatment. The Independent paper published an article highlighting  a survey  of 2,000 patients waiting to be seen for mental health support. 16% said they had attempted suicide while waiting for treatment, 40% said they had harmed themselves and 66% said their condition had deteriorated as they waited.


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