EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. During EMDR therapy you are asked to briefly focus on the trauma memory while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation (usually eye movements) to process emotions associated with the event and reduce the vividness of the experience. EMDR helps people to recover from trauma and PTSD symptoms.
EMDR therapy has extensive research on its effectiveness that demonstrates positive outcomes for disorders such as anxiety, depression, addictions and other distressing life experiences. It is superior to Prozac in trauma treatment (Van der Kolk 2007) and more than 7 million people have good outcomes with this modality (Shapiro and Forrest 2016).
How Does EMDR therapy works?
When a person experiences a traumatic event our stress response can be fight, flight or freeze. The distress from the event remains, the disturbing images, thoughts, and emotions can create an overwhelming feeling of being back in that moment. Our current perceptions can be informed by the emotions, sensations, thoughts/beliefs associated with earlier traumatic event and “the past becomes the present” (Burzynski, Darra and Murphy).
EMDR therapy helps the brain process the memories and resolved the fight flight or freeze response so it’s losing its power and is no longer disturbing.
EMDR therapy is designed to resolve unprocessed traumatic memory and allows the brain to resume its natural healing process. For many clients, EMDR can be completed in fewer sessions than other therapies with vey good outcomes.
Phases of EMDR Therapy
There are eight phases to EMDR therapy: initial history discovery and treatment planning, preparation, assessment, desensitization, installation, body scan, closure, and revaluation.
To understand the present, we need to learn about the past. I take time to get to know my clients, and together; we unpack important experiences, discover the connection between current problems and past, find strengths and resources, and consider cultural context. It is only then we can progress to the assessment and reprocessing phase.
The beauty of EMDR is that you can process traumatic memories or unpleasant experiences without the need to share painful details with your therapist. I say to my clients; “you can tell me as much or as little about that experience/ event as you choose”. The aim is to “activate” the memory during the reprocessing phase by bringing to mind image, cognition, feelings and body sensations associated with it, so we are then ready to reprocess. I am mindful that all client work is done within the individual client’s window of tolerance and is their pace.
During the assessment phase the client is asked to select specific image or mental picture that best represents the traumatic experience/ memory. Then the client is invited to choose a statement that expresses a negative self-belief associated with the event (even if it feels irrational). These negative beliefs manifest the disturbing emotions that still exists.
I prompt my clients to give me “I statement” which indicate “self-reference” e.g. “I am bad”, “I am trapped”, “I am worthless”.
We will then look for a positive cognition what would the client prefer to believe using the “I” statement, that is appropriate in the present e.g. “I am a good person”, “I am free”, “I am worthwhile”.
I will then ask client to tell me how true the positive statement feels on the 1-to-7 Validity of Cognition Scale.
During this phase negative emotions and physical sensations associated with the reprocessing memory/ event are identified. The client is asked to rate the disturbance of the targeted memory/ event on a scale called The Subjective Units of Disturbance (SUD) 1- 10.
The goal of EMDR treatment is for the SUD score to decrease while the VOC score increase.
Following the reprocessing we will move to the desensitization phase, which aims to shift disturbance associated with traumatic memory to “0” – when it loses its power and is no longer disturbing.
Following the desensitization installations takes place whereby a new positive belief is enhanced, and positive cognition strengthened.
We will then check if any residual tension is still present in the body to determine that there is no physical response to unresolved thoughts.
The next phase – closure, focuses on helping clients feeling better at the end of the session and provides clear guidance on what to expect between sessions as processing may continue.
The final phase is Revaluation. This guides the therapist and client though the treatment plans and directs next steps of therapy.
Ania Harnden completed training with the “EMDR Training Australia and New Zealand”, a training provider that presents an EMDR training program authorised by Dr Francine Shapiro and her training institute, the EMDR Institute. Ania Harnden is a member of EMDR International Association (EMDRIA).
To book an appointment with Ania, select Online Booking or call Vision Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3088 5422.
Introduction to EMDR Therapy – VIDEO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pkfln-ZtWeY&t=219s
Maxfield, L. (2019). A clinician’s guide to the efficacy of EMDR therapy. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research [Editorial], 13(4), 239-246. Open access: http://dx.doi.org/10.1891/1933-3126.96.36.199
Shapiro, F., & Forrest, M. S. (2016). EMDR: The breakthrough therapy for overcoming anxiety, stress, and trauma. Hachette UK
Van der Kolk, B.A., Spinazzola, J., Blaustein, M.E., Hopper, J.W., Hopper, E.K., Korn, D. L., & Simpson, W.B. (2007). A randomized clinical trial of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), fluoxetine, and pill placebo in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder: treatment effects and long-term maintenance. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 68(1), 37-46.
S.Burzynski, D.Darra, J. Murphy, Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy