Cardiff Metropolitan University
27.10.21 Marnie Akers_Redacted.pdf (8.57 MB)

Personal Experiences of EMDR Therapy within Secure Services

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posted on 2022-10-28, 13:18 authored by Marnie Allen
The link between trauma, mental health difficulties and criminal behaviour is becoming widely acknowledged. Secure services primarily continue to offer offence-focused interventions. Little is known about why individuals engage in Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, which is neither offence-focused nor mandated, or how it may be beneficial in terms of recovery or risk reduction.

This study aimed to develop an understanding of personal experiences of EMDR therapy within secure services. An opportunistic sample of eight services users was recruited from secure services and invited to engage in a semi-structured interview to explore their experiences. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. The analysis revealed four main themes that were central to participant experiences of engaging in EMDR therapy within a secure service.

The first was the ‘Decision to Engage in EMDR Therapy’ including ‘Accessing Information and the Unknown’ along with ‘Making a Personal Commitment to Engage in the Therapy’.

The second theme was the ‘Essential Support Structures’ that were in place and identified the ‘Challenges of a 'Secure Environment’ and the ‘Necessity of the Therapeutic Relationship’.

The third theme was the ‘EMDR Therapy Process’, which involved the ‘Functional Aspects of the use of Bilateral Stimulation’ and the ‘Visceral Impact of Engagement’.

The final theme was around ‘Identifying Personal Change’ that participants observed in relation to ‘Changes in Mental Health and Diagnosis’, ‘Insights and Reflections on Offending Behaviour’ and ‘Ability to Cope and Experience Hope for the Future’.

The study highlights how EMDR therapy was life changing for all of the participants involved and provides a detailed exploration of these aspects. EMDR therapy was not an easy therapy for participants to engage in and a number of relevant factors are identified that should be considered when offering a trauma intervention within a secure service. Further clinical implications are outlined.



  • School of Sport and Health Sciences

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  • Doctoral

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  • PhD

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