What is EMDR Therapy?

What is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR therapy is a treatment for traumatic, stressful or disturbing experiences.

What does EMDR stand for?

The letters “EMDR” stand for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing. As the name suggests, eye movements (from left to right) typically form part of the mechanism for assisting natural brain-based systems to digest and neutralise physical and emotional disturbance.

While this might seem strange (and indeed initially feel strange to new clients), EMDR therapy is recognised as an effective form of treatment for trauma and other disturbing experiences, by organisations such as the American Psychological Association and the World Health Organisation.

Positive outcomes with EMDR

EMDR is a cognitive-behaviourally underpinned therapy with well-documented positive outcomes in healing symptoms and distress related to disturbing life experiences. Such conditions may include:

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD);
  • phobias and anxiety;
  • mood disorders (ie depression);
  • childhood abuse;
  • complicated grief and loss;
  • somatic symptoms;
  • unhelpful behavioural patterns; and
  • substance and behavioural addictions.

How long does EMDR take?

Prior to the development of EMDR therapy in the late 1980’s, it was widely accepted that trauma or severe emotional suffering could only be treated successfully over many years.

However in contrast, repeated studies utilising EMDR protocols have shown that it is possible for clients to attain healing and relief in more efficient timeframes than previously believed.

In much the same way as the body mobilises processes to heal physical injury, our minds also have innate restorative capacities to heal psychological trauma. Sometimes these natural processes become stuck, overwhelmed, or imbalanced by the impact of a single or repetitive disturbing event(s). This open emotional wound can then fester, become further irritated and infected and lead to intense suffering. It appears that EMDR Therapy is effective in stimulating and guiding natural information processing mechanisms to address these ‘wounds’, and help move us back towards emotional wellness.

EMDR therapy involves careful preparation phases to ensure that those undergoing the treatment understand and are familiar with the processes utilised, and are able to effectively tolerate any distress arising from accessing relevant troublesome memories.

EMDR then enables the person undergoing treatment to rapidly access traumatic memories and process them emotionally and cognitively towards resolution – effectively allowing clients to ‘shed’ outdated modes of coping or responding, which have been locked in their bodies and memory system.

After successful treatment with EMDR, emotional distress is relieved, negative self beliefs are reformulated into healthy and adaptive self-statements, and physiological arousal associated with stress is reduced. Successful treatment allows the person to live engaged in the present rather than ‘haunted’, distracted, or hijacked by past events, and associated patterns of responding.