Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)

What is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR is an evidence-based, 8- phase approach to therapy that is proven effective in the treatment of trauma, anxiety and other disorders.

The mind usually heals itself naturally in the same way that the body does. Much of our natural coping mechanisms occur during sleep, particularly during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the ‘dream stage’ of sleep. However, when we experience a traumatic event, our brain’s processing system can get overwhelmed. The memory is not processed but gets ‘locked’ into the nervous system. Remembering the distressing event may feel like being ‘re-experienced’ because the images and feelings are unprocessed and, therefore, unchanged.

In EMDR Therapy, we work with you to identify a specific issue you would like to resolve. You are invited to call to mind a particularly disturbing issue or event and notice what images, thoughts, feelings and sensations arise. I then guide you to move your eyes left to right, listen to alternate left/right sounds in headphones or use tapping movements on your body. This bilateral stimulation is repeated in sets throughout the session, with pauses and brief reflections in between. This process is believed to activate the brain’s natural healing mechanism, similar to during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep when the eyes flicker left and right while you are dreaming. It also increases communication between the brain’s two hemispheres, which helps the brain process and resolve traumatic material. During EMDR sessions, you are fully awake, alert, and in control at all times.

Following an EMDR session, most people report changes in the issue or event that was previously distressing. Memories typically become less vivid and upsetting. The event can still be recalled but is no longer disturbing. Memories usually also become less intrusive, meaning symptoms such as flashbacks and nightmares reduce or cease. A person’s beliefs about themselves, other people and the world also change, becoming more adaptive and realistic. This helps to shift issues commonly occurring in the aftermath of trauma, such as fear, self-blame, guilt, shame, mistrust and anger.

Source http://emdraa.org/why-emdr-therapy-2/ Graeme Taylor.

The 8 Phases of EMDR

  1. History Taking (Understanding why you’re coming in for treatment, how trauma is currently affecting you and what your goals are for a successful outcome.)
  2. Resourcing (Also known as the Preparation stage/stabilisation)
  3. Target Assessment (quickly preparing the memory to be worked on)
  4. Reprocessing (this is the part when you are  doing eye movements or tapping)
  5. Installation (reinforcing the “good stuff”, such as new positive thoughts about the memory)
  6. Body Scan (making sure there is no leftover tension in the body)
  7. Closure (this happens at the end of every session, even if we’re not done working on that memory, so you can leave my office feeling calm and collected)
  8. Reevaluation (this happens at the beginning of every session, so we can see what has processing in between sessions and where we need to pick up)

Is there any scientific evidence supporting EMDR Therapy?

EMDR Therapy is one of the most well-researched trauma treatment models. In 2010 the Australian Psychological Society (APS) noted it as a Level 1 treatment for PTSD, the highest rating that can be applied to a specific therapeutic approach. Medicare care benefits apply to EMDR therapy.

The following organisations have endorsed EMDR Therapy:

  • The World Health Organisation (2013)
  • The Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health (2013)
  • The Australian Psychological Society (2010)
  • The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (2009)
  • The National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia (NHMRC, 2007)
  • UK National Guidelines for Clinical Excellence (NICE, 2005)
  • American Psychiatric Association (2004)
  • Dutch Guidelines on Mental Health Care (2003)
  • Israel National Council for Mental Health (2002)
  • Clinical Division of the American Psychological Association (1998)

Source http://emdraa.org/why-emdr-therapy-2/ Graeme Taylor.

“EMDR is based on the idea that negative thoughts, emotions, body sensations, and behaviours are the result of unprocessed memories.”

~ Laurel Parnell