EMDR has becoming a frequently requested treatment option for many people as the conversation around EMDR is growing and how EMDR is helping people. But what is EMDR? And how does it work? Our Psychology team have put this resource together to help you understand EMDR and to help you make an informed decision about the treatment of your mental health.
What is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an intervention that assists people to recover from the emotional distress and symptoms that have resulted from traumatic events.
How do trauma memories get stored in our brain?
When something disturbing is experienced, our brain may find it very challenging to make sense of what happened.
Often we don’t like to think or talk about these events and we avoid all the things that remind us of what occurred. Sometimes when we are sleeping, sleep may be restless, disrupted or include nightmares which interrupts normal processing of these memories.
Our inability to naturally process the event, results in all of the vivid details, along with the negative thoughts, emotions and body sensations becoming stuck in an isolated memory network where they may remain. Every time we’re reminded of the event, we become triggered over and over again.
In another area of our brain, there is an adaptive memory network which holds all of the helpful information and knowledge we need to be able to resolve the traumatic memory. Unfortunately, trying to process the traumatic events creates significant distress and this causes the brain pathways to stop communicating with each other. Consequently, the adaptive network and isolated trauma memories become cut off from each other, preventing natural processing from occurring.
How does EMDR help?
In EMDR, the traumatic memories are targeted along with the negative beliefs that are attached to the memory, such as “it’s my fault”, or “I am unsafe”, through the use of bilateral stimulation (back and forth eye movements).
During this process, EMDR assists the isolated trauma memory and adaptive memory networks to link up and start to communicate and the helpful, adaptive information can begin to help resolve the trauma memory.
The emotional response, feelings, thoughts and vividness of a traumatic memory may be reduced. The negative meaning that the traumatic event once evoked, may now be replaced by a positive belief such as “I did the best I could” or “ I am safe now”.
How is EMDR different from other types of therapies?
EMDR is different from traditional talk therapies as it does not require you to talk in detail about the traumatic memory to process it. With EMDR, the eye movements assist the brain to naturally process unresolved memories which promotes normal healing.
What does EMDR target or treat?
EMDR was primarily developed to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. However, more recently it has been used to treat a range of other conditions such as depression, anxiety, panic, complicated grief, OCD, substance abuse and addiction, eating disorders, personality disorders, phobias and chronic pain.
Is EMDR safe?
Yes, EMDR is safe and has been used to treat many thousands of people. It has been extensively researched and has developed a large clinical evidence base.
However, in EMDR traumatic and disturbing memories are being targeted which can exacerbate distressing emotions, therefore consulting with a practitioner that has undertaken specific training in EMDR and can assess and prepare you effectively, is extremely important.
How long does it take?
The length of a course of EMDR is very dependent on the individual and whether the memory is related to a single event which may take less than five sessions or multiple traumatic events which could take a considerable amount of time to treat. An EMDR session usually takes between 60 to 90 minutes and you will likely be seen weekly or fortnightly.
What happens in an EMDR session/s?
EMDR takes place across eight different phases and incorporates the past, present and the future. The eight EMDR phases that your practitioner will guide you through include:
- Phase 1, 2 & 3 – HISTORY, PREPARATION and TARGET ASSESSMENT
Initially, your practitioner will take a detailed history including symptoms and general information and also assess suitability and readiness for EMDR. You will also develop a range of coping strategies to manage any emotional distress. Then the memory that will be targeted is explored in much greater detail. You will be assisted to uncover any negative beliefs that have developed about yourself when you think about the distressing memory and to consider a positive belief you would like to believe when the trauma has been resolved.
- Phase 4 & 5 – DESENSITISATION & INTEGRATION
Desensitisation is where the target memory, negative personal meaning and body sensations and emotions are processed using bi-lateral stimulation. Your practitioner will ask you to simply notice what is occurring and report it back to them until they deem the memory has been fully processed. You will then be assisted to link a new positive self-statement to the desensitised memory and to notice any new body sensations and emotions being experienced. Once this section is completed you may be able to view the traumatic memory from a different, more empowering perspective with reduced emotional responses.
- Phase 6, 7 & 8 – BODY SCAN, CLOSURE & RE-EVALUATION
A body scan is used to reduce or strengthen any negative or positive physical tension that has arisen when thinking of the target memory and the new positive belief. Following this, your practitioner will close the session by explaining what to expect over the next 24 – 48 hours. When you attend the follow up session they will re-evaluate what happened between sessions and what changes, or progress has occurred and take any further action as needed.
Is EMDR right for me?
EMDR has been used on both children and adults. Your practitioner can determine whether EMDR is suitable for you during the history and preparation phases of EMDR.
Can EMDR be done online?
Yes, EMDR can be done online via video conferencing, however suitability would need to be assessed prior to commencement.
How can I get more information about EMDR?
The EMDRAA website contains information and resources about EMDR. The link is: https://emdraa.org/
Who can administer EMDR at Proactive Health and Movement?
Multiple members of the psychology team are trained in the administration of EMDR at Proactive Health & Movement. If you would like more information or to book an appointment, please call 52981147 or book online here: https://www.proactivehm.com.au/