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Guide to Training in EMDR

EMDR is an advanced form of psychotherapy that requires practitioners to have a high skill level, along with extensive training, to achieve accreditation. This guide will detail all of the important information you need when considering EMDR training in the UK.

What is EMDR?

EMDR stands for ‘eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing’ – a short-term exposure therapy primarily used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and certain phobias.

EMDR was effectively founded in the 1980s by Francine Shapiro, who discovered that repetitive eye movements could reduce the intensity of distressing thoughts. This therapy seeks to remove the emotion associated with distressing memories to allow the brain to store it as a more logical event.

Put simply, EMDR rewires or retrains the brain to be able to recall the details of a traumatic event without the overwhelming sensations, feelings, and emotions, thus preventing the brain from storing the event as a traumatic sensory memory.

Although it originally started as just eye movements, EMDR today can entail the use of several different types of bilateral sensory stimulation in conjunction with recalling the distressing memory. This can include clients following a moving target with their eyes, a moving light machine, alternating knee taps, and vibrations.

Am I eligible for EMDR training?

To be eligible for EMDR training, you must have some background in mental health training, with a qualification that can be categorised into one of the headings below:

  • Mental health professionals

This includes Clinical Psychologists, Counselling Psychologists, Educational Psychologists, and Forensic Psychologists that are registered with HCPC, plus Psychiatrists holding an MRCPsych or SpR qualification.

You might also be eligible for EMDR training if you are a Registered Mental Health Nurse (NMC) or a Registered Social Worker who has previous mental health training, and at least two years of experience in providing psychotherapy.

  • Counsellors and psychotherapists

To be eligible for EMDR training, counsellors and psychotherapists must have accreditation by a recognised regulatory body such as UKCP, BABCP, BACP, IACP, and so on, or have provisional accreditation by BABCP.

  • General practitioners

This applies if you are registered with the General Medical Council (GMC), experienced in psychotherapy, and either accredited or working towards a psychotherapy accreditation.

  • Clinical and counselling psychologists

If you are still in training to be a clinical psychologist or a counselling psychologist, you might still undertake EMDR training with a letter of recommendation from your clinical supervisor.

  • Arts psychologists and occupational therapists

Art psychologists and occupational therapists can train in EMDR as long as they are registered with HCPC, have two years’ experience in providing psychotherapy, have previous mental health training, and can provide a reference from their clinical supervisor as proof of meeting the requirements.

  • Mental health professionals residing outside of the UK

Mental health professionals living and practising outside of the UK might still undertake EMDR training in the UK if they can provide a letter from their national EMDR association, meet the UK eligibility criteria, and are assured that this training will be transferable to their country of origin. 

The process of training

There are a number of qualifications and training programmes that you can receive to advance your studies in EMDR, all of which can help you to achieve different career goals within the field. Here are some of the training courses that you should consider:

  • Standard training

Standard EMDR training usually takes around seven days to complete to introduce you to the basics of EMDR. Depending on the provider, these elements might be referred to as Parts 1 to 3, Parts 1 to 4, or Level 1 and Level 2. In order to achieve certification, you must complete clinical practice with three clients during your training.

  • Supervised practice

After completing standard training, you can practise EMDR under supervision from an accredited EMDR consultant. Once sufficient experience has been gained, and you have clinical practice of at least 25 clients, you can apply to become an Accredited Practitioner.

  • Consultant training

Once you are registered as an Accredited Practitioner, you no longer need to be supervised. However, you can train to supervise others after three years of practice as an Accredited EMDR Consultant by taking an additional three-day course and achieving sufficient clinical supervision experience.

  • Specialised training

Standard EMDR training will give you the basic knowledge of EMDR and its general practical applications. If you wish to specialise in a particular area of EMDR, such as working with vulnerable children and young people, then you might consider completing specialised training programmes in addition to your standard training.

Although EMDR training can be intensive, it will ultimately reward you with the skills to successfully treat PTSD and specific phobias, making it a potentially very worthwhile investment if you are a professional with these aspirations.

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