What is EMDR Therapy?

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy is a powerful psychological treatment that has been used effectively for over 25 years in a variety of international settings and cultures with many different types of psychological distress.

What is EMDR Therapy?

In this video, our Principal Psychologist, Kerry Howard, explains why you might consider engaging in an EMDR Therapy process.

What is EMDR Therapy?

Often disturbing events happen in our lives that stay with us. The brain cannot process information as it ordinarily does. One moment can become ‘frozen in time’ and remembering the trauma may feel as bad as going through it for the first time. This is because the images, sounds, smells and feelings still seem to be there – they haven’t changed. Such memories have a lasting negative effect that interferes with the way a person sees the world and the way that they relate to other people.

EMDR Therapy has a positive effect on how the brain processes information. Following an EMDR Therapy session, the person no longer relives the trauma. They still recall that an incident happened, but it no longer feels upsetting.

The evidence supports EMDR Therapy

EMDR Therapy is one of the most researched psychotherapeutic approaches for PTSD. Since 1989 over 20 controlled clinical studies have found EMDR Therapy to effectively decrease or eliminate the symptoms of PTSD for the majority of clients and it is more efficient.

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) has recently noted EMDR Therapy as a Level 1 treatment for PTSD in their recent published results for ‘Evidence-Based Psychological Interventions: A Literature Review’ (2010) for both young people and adults. This is the highest rating that can be applied to a specific therapeutic approach. Additional research has focussed on use of EMDR Therapy for Depression and Anxiety and numerous other issues with extremely good results.

How is the EMDR Therapy session like?

During EMDR Therapy, the therapist works with the client to identify a specific problem as a focus for the treatment session. The client then calls to mind the disturbing issue or event, what was seen, felt, heard, thought, etc. The therapist will then begin eye movements or other bilateral stimulation. These eye movements are used until the memory becomes less disturbing and is associated with a positive thought and belief about yourself.

What are the advantages of EMDR Therapy over
other treatment approaches?

Treatment is focussed on the symptoms and conducted in session EMDR Therapy has comparable results to that of other trauma treatments such as exposure therapy, but over a shorter timeframe

Studies have shown that 77-90% of clients with PTSD were able to eliminate their symptoms after 3-7 sessions of EMDR Therapy (without homework)

How long does it take?

One or more sessions are required for the therapist to understand the nature of the problem and to decide whether EMDR Therapy is an appropriate treatment. The therapist will also discuss EMDR Therapy with you more fully and give you an opportunity to ask questions. The typical EMDR Therapy session lasts from 60-90 minutes. The type of problem, life circumstances and the amount of previous trauma will determine how many treatment sessions are necessary.

What kind of problems can EMDR Therapy treat?

Scientific research has established EMDR Therapy as effective for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Clinicians have also successfully utilised EMDR Therapy in treatment of:

    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Panic attacks
    • Personality disorders
    • Complicated grief
    • Dissociative disorders
    • Pain disorders
    • Body dysmorphic disorders
    • Eating disorders
    • Sexual or Physical abuse
    • Performance anxiety
    • Stress reduction
    • Disturbing memories
    • Phobias
    • Addictions

How was EMDR developed?

In 1987, psychologist Dr Francine Shapiro made the chance observation that eye movements can reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts, under certains conditions. Dr Shapiro studied this effect scientifically, and in 1989 reported success using EMDR Therapy to treat victims of trauma (Journal of Traumatic Stress).

These days, EMDR Therapy integrates elements of many effective psychotherapies to maximise treatment effects.  These include:

    • Psychodynamic
    • Cognitive behavioural
    • Interpersonal
    • Experiential, and
    • Body Centred Therapies

EMDR Therapy is an information processing therapeutic technique that incorporates an eight phase approach.

EMDR Therapy is also endorsed by:

The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

National Health and Medical Research Council

American Psychiatric Association

US Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense

Northern Ireland Department of Health

Dutch Guidelines of Mental Health Care

Israel National Council for Mental Health

Clinical Division of the American Psychological Association

What is the EMDR Association of Australia?

The EMDR Association of Australia (EMDRAA) is a member organisation of psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health practitioners who have been trained in EMDR Therapy. EMDRAA was founded in 1998 and in addition to supporting practitioners, it sets the standards for training and consultancy. 

What else do I need to know?

Your EMDR practioner will be able to discuss your specific case in more detail and answer any further questions you may have about EMDR Therapy. If you would like to read further about EMDR Therapy please visit the following websites:




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