What Is EMDR Therapy?

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of structured psychotherapy that was developed in 1987 by American psychologist Francine Shapiro. It was designed to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) using Shapiro's Adaptive Information Processing model, which is based on the idea that PTSD symptoms and other similar conditions stem from past distressful experiences that persist in the present because memories of the traumatic event were not adequately processed.

EMDR works on trauma reduction by allowing the patient to focus on the traumatic memory for a brief period of time while making bilateral (side-to-side) eye movements. The decrease in emotion associated with traumatic memories is linked to eye movement.

EMDR Therapy

How Does EMDR Therapy Work?

EMDR therapy combines various elements to maximise treatment effects. It entails paying attention to the past, present and future. Past painful memories or events are highlighted. It is also applied to current circumstances that are distressing, as well as to acquiring skills and attitudes required for positive future behaviour. An eight-phase treatment approach is used to address all of these matters.

Phase 1

History taking and therapy planning involves the therapist reviewing your symptoms and medical history in order to determine the best treatment plan for you.

Phase 2

Preparation teaches you basic techniques for managing emotional stress, such as eye movements.

Phase 3

Assessment is the process of choosing a particular memory to focus on and any pertinent features of that memory, such as painful emotions or bodily sensations, negative thoughts, or distressing perceptions.

From phases 4 to 7, the therapist will guide you through bilateral stimulation (BLS) and other EMDR techniques to help you focus on the targeted memory until it no longer causes distress. The four key components of these stages are desensitisation, installation, body scan and closure.

Phase 8

Re-evaluation refers to the process that begins at the next session. During this session, the therapist checks your current psychological state and whether treatment outcomes have been maintained. They will also look at what memories have surfaced since the previous session and work with you to identify targets for the current session.

What Are the Benefits of EMDR Therapy?

Studies have shown that EMDR therapy produces results that traditional psychotherapy takes years to produce. It has demonstrated efficacy in the treatment of a variety of mental health conditions, including:

  • Childhood trauma
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Paranoia
  • Addiction and substance use disorders
  • Psychosis
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Eating disorders

What Can You Expect From EMDR Therapy?

During an EMDR therapy session, your active listening skills will come into play, and using them will certainly yield the best results. While it is easy to let your mind wander, try to focus on the therapist's instructions while keeping the image of your targeted memory in your mind so that you can perform the eye movements and other EMDR techniques with ease and confidence.

A session can last up to 90 minutes and positive results can be expected after three to four sessions.

Is EMDR Therapy Safe?

It most certainly is. EMDR therapy is generally regarded as a safe treatment by many doctors. It has fewer side effects, such as lightheadedness, which subsides after a day. In contrast, medications for depression and other mental illnesses cause severe physical discomfort such as nausea, diarrhoea, headaches, fatigue and insomnia. In addition, unlike some medications, EMDR therapy remains effective long after treatment has ended.