EMDR - Eye Movement Desensitisation & Reprocessing
Trauma and Distressing Memories
It seems that when a person is very distressed, the brain is unable to process the experience as it normally would. Therefore when we experience traumatic or distressing events, the memories of these events may not be properly processed or stored in the part of the brain where our normal memories are stored. These memories may not feel like they are fully in the past and can be easily triggered causing ongoing distress. When thinking of the memory it’s as if we are re-experiencing the feelings, thoughts, beliefs and physical sensations that occurred at the time of event. When we think of these memories we can experience very strong emotions or we can shut down so that we feel nothing.
What is EMDR and how does it work?
Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapy that helps to process these distressing memories and store them in the right place. After EMDR therapy, the memory of the event is still there however it is less distressing. The person no longer feels as if they are re-living the images, sounds and feelings of the memory.
EMDR appears to have an effect on the brain by processing the information that could not be processed at the time of the traumatic event. During EMDR therapy it seems that processing of the distressing memory is stimulated by the EMDR procedure, which involves bilateral stimulation or left to right eye movements. Other forms of bilateral stimulation can also be utilised, including tapping with therapist's or client's hands.
What can I expect with EMDR treatment ?
Prior to EMDR being conducted, the therapist will spend a few sessions assessing your history and readiness for EMDR as well as developing a treatment plan. During these initial sessions she will ensure you are equipped with several different strategies to manage emotional distress.
An EMDR session lasts between 60 -90 minutes. The number of EMDR sessions required will depend on the nature and history of the trauma. In some cases where there has been a single recent traumatic event, one EMDR session may be all that is required. The number of EMDR sessions will depend on your life circumstances and the amount of previous trauma you have experienced.
Is EMDR an evidenced based psychological therapy?
There is very good evidence to show that EMDR is an effective form of treatment. Since 1989 a number of controlled clinical studies have found that EMDR is an effective approach in decreasing or eliminating symptoms of PTSD.
The Australian Psychological Society regards EMDR as a Level 1 treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is the highest rating that can be applied to a therapeutic approach. EMDR has been recognised as an effective treatment by many Australian and international organisations including:
World Health Organisation (WHO)
Australian Psychological Society
Phoenix Australia – Centre for Post Traumatic Mental Health
National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (UK)
The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies
American Psychiatric Association
Can any practitioner provide EMDR therapy?
The EMDR Association of Australia (EMDRAA) is the professional association that sets the standards for the clinical use of EMDR therapy in Australia. EMDR is an advanced psychotherapy that requires a high level of skill and only experienced mental health professionals who are fully registered with a professional association can apply to undertake EMDR therapy training.