All About EMDR Therapy
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy is an evidence-based psychological treatment that has been used for over two decades to treat a variety of concerns. What's more, EMDR Therapy is effective when delivered online.
From the perspective of EMDR Therapy, unwanted symptoms are the result of inadequately processed memories. This occurs as distress can impact our usual memory storage processes. Memories that have not been adequately processed can be triggered more easily, resulting in unpleasant symptoms like flashbacks or high levels of arousal.
Sometimes, people have not seen their symptoms change despite long-term traditional talk therapy. Unlike traditional talk therapy, EMDR Therapy aims to assist by re-processing memories, and by doing so, reducing the unpleasant symptoms. Watch the video below to learn more.
How does EMDR Therapy reprocess memories?
Under non-stressful conditions, events are usually processed by our hippocampus (short-term memory storage) and integrated into to our cortex (long-term memory storage) during sleep. High arousal, like that experienced in traumatic events, can interrupt this typical memory process.
The disturbing memories can remain in the threat (limbic system) in an unprocessed state. When a new experience triggers any of the related elements of the disturbing memory, a person may feel high levels of distress, or as if the event is happening again.
From the perspective of EMDR Therapy, rapid eye movements, referred to as bi-lateral stimulation, mimic the eye movements of REM sleep. Therefore, EMDR therapy aims to jumpstart the brain's natural innate healthy memory processing system, so that disturbing memories may be adequately integrated into long-term memory storage. EMDR does not erase memories, it allows the information to be stored in new ways.
What does EMDR involve?
EMDR is a structured therapy that follows an 8 phase process. It is also a collaborative process, meaning that what is processed and when is decided collaboratively between you and the psychologist, based on the treatment plan and your readiness.
Part of the structured process is helping a person to develop coping strategies to prepare them for memory processing. Commonly used strategies include:
Cognitive Behavioural techniques
Stress/ anxiety management training
Problem-solving and decision-making skills
Assertive communication skills and healthy boundary setting
What happens during a typical memory session?
Following careful treatment planning and preparation, EMDR can then begin. Once a target memory has been chosen, in session you will be asked, using a structured process, to recall components of the memory, for example the image and negative self-belief associated with the memory, while simultaneously engaging in sets of bilateral stimulation (i.e., typically left-to-right eye movements) until the memory is processed.
Processing of the memory is complete when the memory can be recalled with no disturbance.
What concerns can EMDR assist with?
There is a strong evidence that EMDR Therapy is effective for the treatment of:
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)
EMDR can also be used as a treatment component for:
Depression (where disturbing past memories are contributing to symptoms)
C-PTSD (Complex PTSD)