Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR, is a psychological treatment that has been used for more than 20 years and enables people to heal from trauma, traumatic memories and other disturbing experiences. Although originally developed to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), EMDR has also been used successfully as a component in the treatment of panic, anxiety, grief, eating disorders, phobias and addictions.
EMDR has many advantages over other treatment approaches, but we believe the biggest advantage is that EMDR shows comparable results to other trauma focussed therapies (such as Prolonged Exposure), but over a much shorter time frame.
"Often disturbing events happen in our lives that stay with us. The brain cannot process information as it ordinarily does. One moment can become ‘frozen in time’ and remembering the trauma may feel as bad as going through it for the first time. This is because the images, sounds, smells and feelings still seem to be there – they haven’t changed. Such memories have a lasting negative effect that interferes with the way a person sees the world and the way that they relate to other people.
EMDR has a positive effect on how the brain processes information. Following an EMDR session, the person no longer relives the trauma. They still recall that an incident happened, but it no longer feels upsetting."
The exert above is from the EMDR Association of Australia's (EMDRAA) website. For a complete list of their EMDR FAQ, please visit their website at https://emdraa.org/what-is-emdr. You can find out more about trauma and why it occurs on our dedicated trauma page.
EMDR has been noted as a Level 1 treatment for PTSD by the Australian Psychological Society (APS). This is the highest level of endorsement. It is also a recommended treatment in the practice guidelines of well-renowned Australian and international bodies, such as:
If you research the EMDR treatment processes, you will probably find Francine Shapiro's eight-phase treatment model for EMDR. These phases include history taking, client preparation, assessment, desensitisation, installation, body scan, closure and reevaluation. While it is helpful for psychologists to structure EMDR sessions, these phases can be difficult to understand. Instead, we find it helpful to consider EMDR in three simpler phases.
Like any therapy, the first phase of EMDR includes history-taking and treatment planning. During this phase, your psychologist will get to know you and your reasons for seeking EMDR therapy. Your psychologist will also discuss specific techniques to help you cope with any emotions that may arise during therapy.
After the initial phase, your psychologist will work with you to identify a particular traumatic memory to target with EMDR. Emotions and physical sensations associated with memory will be noted down. Once a target memory is chosen, the desensitisation process can begin. This involves the client focusing on the memory while the therapist provides some form of bilateral stimulation. Typically, this is side-to-side eye movement but may include sounds or tactile feedback.
At the end of each session, your psychologist will help you return to a state of calm. Your psychologist will also evaluate the session, whether any changes have occurred and decide how best to structure future sessions.
Many of Mindstate Psychology’s practitioners are highly experienced in providing EMDR therapy, with some practitioners being EMDR Association of Australia accredited (EMDRAA). More information about our team and their individual experience is available on our Team page.
Depending on your psychological needs, your practitioner may decide to use EMDR during a therapy session. Your practitioner will always talk to you about what they are doing and what to expect prior to starting. Similarly, if you think EMDR will be beneficial, you can talk to your practitioner about trying EMDR, or contact us to book a session.
It is difficult to determine how many EMDR sessions you will need until you have had the initial consultation and begin treatment. Some clients may completely resolve their trauma memory in as little as one EMDR session, however most clients require more than one session (dependent upon the level and complexity of their disturbing memories). At Mindstate Psychology, EMDR sessions typically run for 50 minutes.
This short animated video may help you get an understanding of EMDR and how it works: