Here at Foundation Psychology a number of our psychologists are EMDR therapist working with people with trauma and other unresolved issues.
Emma Vaughan works with EMDR and has a special interest in first responders.
What is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy treatment that was developed in the late 1980s by psychologist Francine Shapiro. EMDR is a structured therapy that involves bilateral stimulation of the brain through eye movements, tapping, or other forms of sensory input. This process is thought to help the brain process and integrate traumatic experiences, reducing their emotional impact.
EMDR is primarily used to treat individuals who have experienced trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it can also be used to address a range of other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and phobias. It is a unique form of therapy in that it is not talk-based; instead, clients are asked to recall the traumatic event while focusing on the therapist’s bilateral stimulation. Through this process, clients can reduce the intensity of their traumatic memories and move towards recovery. This process helps to desensitize the traumatic memory and reframe the individual’s beliefs about themselves and their experiences. EMDR therapy is culturally responsive and can be attuned with cultural resources and beliefs.
Is EMDR effective?
Over 44 randomised controlled trials support the use of EMDR with a wide range of trauma presentations. There is a growing body of evidence that supports the use of EMDR as an effective treatment for PTSD and trauma-related disorders. Meta-analyses have shown that EMDR is as effective as trauma focused cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), a widely-used talk therapy approach, in treating PTSD.
In EMDR the therapist guides the individual through a series of eye movements or other forms of bilateral stimulation while they focus on the traumatic memory. While the exact mechanism by which EMDR works is still not fully understood, researchers have proposed several theories. One hypothesis is that the bilateral stimulation used in EMDR helps to activate the brain’s natural healing mechanisms, allowing the client to process and integrate traumatic experiences in a way that is less overwhelming. Another theory is that the eye movements used in EMDR stimulate both the right and left hemispheres of the brain, which may help to promote greater integration and communication between the two.
EMDR is typically recommended for individuals who have experienced trauma or PTSD, but it can also be helpful for those struggling with other mental health conditions. For example, EMDR has been shown to be effective in treating anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder and social anxiety disorder. It has also been used to treat depression, phobias, and addiction.
One of the benefits of EMDR is that it can be completed in a relatively short amount of time, with some clients experiencing significant improvement after just a few sessions. However, the length of treatment can vary depending on the severity of the trauma and the individual’s response to therapy.
Can I get EMDR?
It is important to note that EMDR is not a standalone treatment and should be used in conjunction with other therapeutic approaches as needed. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy can be integrated with other therapies to create a more comprehensive and individualized treatment plan for clients. EMDR therapy is a versatile approach that can be adapted to the needs of the individual and the nature of their presenting problems. Here are some examples of how EMDR can be integrated with other therapies:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): CBT and EMDR share similar goals, including the reduction of negative thoughts and emotions related to trauma. Therefore, integrating CBT techniques such as cognitive restructuring and relaxation exercises with EMDR therapy can help individuals to cope better with trauma-related symptoms.
- Mindfulness-Based Therapies: Mindfulness-based therapies, such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), can help individuals increase their awareness and acceptance of their emotions and sensations. Integrating EMDR with these therapies can help individuals develop a more present-focused and non-judgmental perspective, which can enhance the effectiveness of EMDR therapy.
EMDR can be integrated with other therapies to create a more comprehensive and tailored treatment plan for individuals with trauma-related symptoms. The specific integration approach used will depend on the needs and preferences of the individual, and the expertise and training of the therapist.
In conclusion, EMDR is a psychotherapy treatment that has shown promise in treating trauma, PTSD, and other mental health conditions. If you or a loved one is struggling with trauma or PTSD, it may be worth considering EMDR.
Acarturk, C., Konuk, E., Cetinkaya, M., Senay, I., Sijbrandij, M., Cuijpers, P., & Aker, T. (2015). EMDR for Syrian refugees with posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms: Results of a pilot randomized controlled trial. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 6(1), 27414.
de Jongh, A., Amann, B. L., Hofmann, A., Farrell, D., & Lee, C. W. (2019). The status of EMDR therapy in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder 30 years after its introduction. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 13(4), 261-269.
Scelles, C., & Bulnes, L. C. (2021). EMDR as treatment option for conditions other than PTSD: A systematic review. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 644369.