When we think about trauma, we tend to think about Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) e.g. war, assault, family violence, natural disaster or motor vehicle accidents. Many clients who present with anxiety or depression (and other mental health issues) at our clinic have been affected by disturbing life experiences such as chronic childhood neglect, parental separation, bullying, losing a job or an important relationship. Whether you are suffering from PTSD or have experienced a disturbing life event, the impact can be just as traumatic; and the trauma may continue to influence your life in different ways. Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy or EMDR is an evidenced based treatment for trauma.
EMDR was developed in 1980’s by Francine Shapiro to treat PTSD. EMDR Therapy is Medicare approved; and recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Australian Psychological Society (APS) for the treatment of trauma. Studies have also demonstrated that EMDR Therapy is effective in treating anxiety, phobias, depression, eating disorder, addictions and chronic pain.
EMDR Therapy is highly structured and consists of eight phases. Treatment also involves eye movements (similar to rapid eye movement in REM sleep) and other forms of bilateral physical stimulation (tactile or auditory.) EMDR Therapy is a holistic approach in treating trauma. Treatment engages your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and behaviours. Along with addressing the past experience and present triggers, it also prepares you for future situations with new skills to manage challenging situations.
EMDR Therapy uses different techniques including bilateral stimulation, calming and grounding skills, emotional regulation, cognitive restructuring, mindfulness, visualisation and exposure techniques. It is treatment friendly as you don’t have to provide detailed descriptions of the disturbing event or extended exposure. There is also no homework involving the disturbing event/s.
In successful EMDR Therapy, the memory is re-processed and stored in a more adaptive way. Thus, changing the meaning and way you perceive the distressing event. For example, a person in an accident shifts from “I am going to die” feeling intense fear and helplessness when triggered, to the firm belief that, “This is in the past and I survived”. When you get triggered you are no longer reliving the experience; instead, it becomes a memory from your past.
For more information on EMDR Therapy please take a look at www.emdraa.org/emdr-resources/ , which includes an ABC 7.30 Report feature on EMDR. If you are going to give EMDR treatment a go, please make sure your therapist is EMDR trained. At CBT Professionals we have a number of clinicians trained in EMDR treatment. If you wish to consult with a CBT Professionals psychologist for EMDR, please download our referral sheet and take it with you to your GP. We look forward to being of assistance.
F. Shapiro (2001). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: Basic principles, protocols and procedures (3rd edition). New York: Guildford Press.