EMDR Therapy

Modern life can be very stressful. Stress builds up with one thing adding extra pressure on top of another.

Sometimes, the distress is so traumatising that it pushes us into such a severely emotional or traumatised state that we have a great deal of trouble extracting ourselves.

A modern evidence-based therapy that has proven very effective at helping people with severe emotional distress is EMDR.

EMDR therapy

What is EMDR?

EMDR is short for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.  It is a new and powerful therapy to help people let go of strong emotional pain. The therapy uses the brain’s own natural healing process to kick start the resolution of severe distress that has been “locked” in the brain in a way that has prevented the brain from healing itself.  In fact, EMDR has become the evidence-based chosen treatment for persons suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and related severe emotional disorders.

How does EMDR work?

By careful bilateral stimulation of the brain (alternately stimulating the left and right hemispheres of the brain), unlocking and healing of severe emotional distress is triggered.

This type of stimulation resembles REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. We already know that it is while we sleep that the brain naturally sorts out our experiences from the day, discarding useless information and transferring memories appropriately.

Sometimes, extremely negative experiences can get “locked” and the brain is unable to resolve them naturally. This may result in nightmares, depression, anger, anxiety, or emotional disturbance.

Along with this “trapped” negative experience are the negative emotions, sensory information, and childlike or initial interpretation of the experience. Even though these negative emotions, memories or beliefs are “locked away,” they can still affect us greatly and are often triggered by experiences such as sight, smell, touch, taste, or hearing.

When a negative memory is triggered, the result is hyper-arousal – commonly referred to as “fight or flight”. Stress hormones are released into the body and we find ourselves experiencing severe distress and perhaps even “acting out”.

What does EMDR do?

EMDR helps unlock these painful memories or beliefs as the eye movement or tapping stimulates the two hemispheres of the brain to communicate with each other. The bilateral stimulation simulates REM sleep, which is when the brain naturally attaches meaning to experience.

Woman-beachWhile the individual is awake in EMDR treatment, their brain is assisted in dealing with feelings, beliefs or experience not yet resolved though the brain’s natural process.

By focusing on the identified targets when paired with the bilateral stimulation, the negative feelings, beliefs or experience become desensitized, meaning they simple become less bothersome. The feelings, beliefs and/or experience is then re-processed, and new meaning is attached to the experience or triggers.

As the brain arrives at new conclusions, the original trauma no longer contains the negative emotional charge originally associated with it. The triggers are now neutral, the interpretation of experiences is now intentional, and the self-beliefs now present hope instead of powerlessness.

How long does EMDR take?

The length of treatment depends upon multiple factors, but usually takes no more than 6 sessions in all but really severe cases.

Who can benefit from EMDR?

EMDR has been utilised primarily in the treatment of trauma experiences such as physical or sexual abuse, car accidents, victims of crime, natural disasters, and severe loss or grief or war veterans.

Positive results have also been observed with panic and anxiety disorders, sexual dysfunction, chemical dependency, peak performance and chronic pain.

Extensive research has shown EMDR as the most effective and rapid method for healing PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). In addition, EMDR can result in increased self-esteem, decreased feelings of depression, and a renewed spirituality. By interacting with one’s interpretation of previous experience in life, EMDR has the ability to alter personality and personality disorders.

EMDR has been utilised all over the world and proven effective with older adults, adults, children from 2 years of age, and adolescents.

If you feel that you (or someone you know) is stressed, traumatised, depressed, anxious, or emotionally upset and you are interested in finding help to resolve these issues and return to normality, please make an appointment to see me to discuss therapy options, and whether EMDR is right for you.

Dr Malcolm Davies Learning At WorkAuthor: Dr Malcolm Davies, B.Psych.(Hons), M.Psych (Clin), Dip. Clin. Hypnosis, PhD, MASH.

This text is in part paraphrased by Dr Malcolm Davies PhD  from information supplied Amy Fuller, PhD, LMFT, LPC.