Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is recognised as having the highest level of research evidence for the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by the Australian Psychological Society (EBPI Review 2010). Over 300 studies have been published showing EMDR to be effective for treating depression, anxiety, phobias, addictions, body dysmorphia and other mental health issues. EMDR has been used effectively with adults, children and adolescents.
EMDR is popular because treatment outcomes occur in a shorter period of time than some other treatments and the changes have been shown to be permanent. It integrates elements of many effective psychotherapies in structured protocols that are designed to maximize treatment effects. These include psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral, interpersonal, experiential, and body-centered therapies. EMDR is an information processing therapy and uses an eight phase approach.
How does EMDR work?
In deep sleep, we have rapid eye movements. When we sleep and dream, the rapid eye movements activate parts of the brain that are designed to process experiences so we can make sense of them. This processing system enables us to heal and gain peace around traumatic experiences that are charged with disturbing emotions, body sensations and images. We know that eye movements during dreams are very similar to what happens during EMDR.
Emotional problems can get locked in the brain and nervous system. Once this happens, they’re hard to shift. If the anxiety associated with the problem is high, just talking about the problem will not always help. EMDR shifts the painful emotion. The memory and the picture are still there but it’s as if the sting has gone. For example, if you have a spider phobia, talking yourself out of it just doesn’t work. With EMDR, the stuck feelings, in this case the spider phobia, are shifted. The fear associated with the spiders can be desensitised and the feeling is discharged.
It’s a similar process for someone who has undergone a traumatic incident, such as an accident. Their body heals but the emotional trauma and panic often remain. EMDR can process and shift these feelings.