Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Lauren McIntosh

Written by Laruen McIntosh

Clinical Psychologist

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapeutic modality that encompasses many aspects of psychological distress, including difficult emotions, maladaptive beliefs about self and unpleasant body sensations.

In recent years, EMDR has gained popularity amongst clinicians as a useful therapeutic tool for clients who are diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, EMDR has protocols for many psychological disorders including other types of anxiety, depression and chronic pain.

EMDR is based on the premise that the information associated with traumatic events is not stored adaptively in the memory network. EMDR therapy facilitates access to these memories, and processing of the information therein. The processing happens when the therapist directs the client to an external stimulus whilst simultaneously asking the client to focus on their disturbing memories. Generally, the therapist will move his or her fingers across the clients visual field, so that the client moves their eyes back and forth. This bilateral stimulation is thought to have basis in the adaptive healing associated with Rapid Eye Movements (REM) that occur during sleep.

A major benefit of EMDR therapy is that it allows for trauma to be resolved rapidly. Clients are often surprised at the swift rate at which they notice significant improvements in their mood. Furthermore, EMDR does not necessarily involve talking about traumatic events in detail, which many clients find confronting and might cause them to avoid attending therapy altogether.

EMDR can be used for children and adolescents as well as adults.