Phobias, anxiety and EMDR

I can't stop thinking about it. I try and distract myself and it is OK when I go to work or I am with my friends or putting the kids to bed but, as soon as I sit down, it pops back again. This terrible dread in my body, and a tightness in my chest. Sometimes I cannot move because I feel overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings. I feel helpless or weak, like I should know what to do. Sometimes I get angry with myself for being so useless and then I feel low. Or I feel restless and cannot settle, I don’t know what I want or how to relax. I snap at my partner because I cannot think of what to say, and when they ask me what is wrong, I don’t know. I just go round and round in circles.


If you have a spiral of anxiety and low moods or have a phobia which compels you to keep checking your body, your travel plans, stops you from driving, enjoying life, or flying, or you cannot stop thinking about the thing that you are avoiding, or the incident that upset you, therapy may help.

EMDR therapy can help you identify the triggers which trip you into these feelings and thoughts. You reprocess the experience/s which maintain the avoidance, the compulsions to worry, seek reassurance or use safety behaviours to ward off the threat. You develop a less rigid way of engaging with the feared activity, incident, thoughts, or behaviours. You develop a more adaptive thought and feeling which supports you to engage with it differently.

What is EMDR?

EMDR was developed by Francine Shapiro and was initially used predominantly for trauma and overcoming post-traumatic stress. The therapy has developed and, alongside greater insights into neuroscience and research about how it can be used, now offers treatment for conditions such as phobias or cycles of anxiety and depression.

The therapy can be safely practised online or in person and involves using taps, tones, eye movements or buzzers to provide bilateral stimulation. This accesses the neural pathway we use in dreaming, to reprocess events of the day in REM sleep. We disrupt the working memory of the feared or threatening event or feeling and reprocess it safely and carefully to a resolution.

EMDR is a powerful therapy but does not involve ripping into upsetting or distressing material. We prepare you for reprocessing and equip you with strategies for coping. We adapt the therapy to help you find ways of tolerating the distress and slowly increasing this 'window of tolerance' to create greater resilience and adaptive coping.

EMDR therapy is a form of psychotherapy delivered by therapists qualified in a core profession, such as counsellors or psychologists. An accredited EMDR therapist has worked through a variety of training and supervision to equip them with safe, competent ways of working with severe distress. It offers an effective means of tackling difficult and distressing events and mental health issues. EMDR often has a more rapid impact than talking therapies on trauma and other conditions, as it addresses the feelings in the body, the thoughts, and the behaviours, with the client/patient’s choices, preferences and needs at the forefront.

To find out more about EMDR, visit the EMDR Association UK.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Nottingham, NG5
Written by Fiona Corbett, Accredited BACP and EMDR therapist and Clinical Supervisor
Nottingham, NG5

Fiona Corbett BACP and EMDR Association accredited therapist

I work in Nottingham with individuals. My training is in Humanistic counselling, Psychodynamic psychotherapy, and EMDR I also offer supervision. I work with a wide range of issues, including Trauma and ACES.

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