Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)

What Is Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing?

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy approach designed for working with distressing or traumatic memories. The theory behind EMDR is that many psychological difficulties are the result of distressing life experiences that have not been stored in memory properly and are said to be unprocessed or blocked. These traumatic memories may need some help to become processed, and EMDR is one way to do this.

Normal memories are stored by a part of the brain called the hippocampus. You can think of the hippocampus as a librarian that catalogues (processes) events and stores them in the right place. However, some traumatic events (such as accidents, abuse, disasters, or violence) are so overwhelming that the hippocampus doesn’t do its job properly.

When this happens memories are stored in their raw, unprocessed, form. These trauma memories are easily triggered, leading them to replay and cause distress over and over again.

Attachment-Informed EMDR (AI-EMDR)

AI-EMDR builds on the EMDR model with an understanding that our early life experiences significantly influence in who we are as individuals today.

The way we “attach” to our parents or caretakers and the memories from our childhood shape the way we move through the world. AI-EMDR focuses on the meaning we put on these events and the stories we tell ourselves, so we can repair patterns of hurt.

Intergenerational Trauma

While trauma can be deeply personal, it can also be caused by the fears and beliefs passed down through generations.

EMDR can help to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma and help you process the internalised traumatic experiences from your childhood development. You’re able to start healing by processing unresolved grief, recognising your patterns and  developing coping techniques.

What will I be asked to do in EMDR sessions?

01

History and treatment planning

We’ll discuss your medical history and develop a treatment plan.

02

PREPARATION

You’ll learn more about the EMDR process and get any concerns or questions addressed.

03

Assessment

We’ll identify the troubling memory you want to process, what caused it and how it is impacting you today.

04

Desensitisation

You’ll be asked to focus on your memory while making eye movements, tapping or other bilateral stimulation.

05

Installation

We’ll work to strengthen a positive belief into your thought process, replacing the negative ones.

06

Body Scan

You’ll be asked to recall the traumatic event to evaluate your bodily reaction and see if there is any lingering distress.

07

Closure

You’ll return to a state of calm and learn techniques to manage your trauma between therapy sessions.

08

Reevaluation

Together, we’ll discuss how your treatment is progressing and make plans for any further sessions as needed.

Other FAQ

In EMDR you are asked to pay attention from one side to another while thinking about your memory. One way to pay attention from left to right is to follow the therapist’s finger as they move it from side-to-side in your line of vision. Alternative versions of EMDR ask you to pay attention to sounds or tapping sensations which occur in sequence from left to right.

This side-to-side motion is called bilateral stimulation. It has been found to enhance memory processing and there are a number of theories explaining how it might do this. The important thing is to be able to find a form of bilateral stimulation that you are comfortable with.

There is very good evidence that EMDR is an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is recommended by the American Psychological Association (USA) and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE, UK) as an effective treatment for PTSD.

The evidence for using EMDR to treat other disorders is currently less clear. EMDR may be an effective treatment for other conditions, particularly if they involve trauma memories or other distressing memories, but more research is needed.

EMDR sessions are sometimes slightly longer than typical therapy sessions (up to 90 minutes). The number of sessions needed will depend on the type and severity of trauma which you experienced.

Get in touch

Getting started with therapy takes courage and I’d be honoured to guide you along the process. Reach out any time with your questions, book an appointment, or learn more information.