Skip to content

EMDR Therapy - What It Is & What to Expect After EMDR

Traumatic events can lead to long-term mental health problems. The trauma may come from a sudden, one-off event such as an accident, attack, or natural disaster. Ongoing stress from bullying, abuse, or living in an unsafe environment also causes trauma. The body’s usual coping mechanisms are overwhelmed, so without treatment, the person can suffer from the trauma for the rest of their life.

The Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy technique has been used for over 30 years to treat millions of people around the world successfully.

Effects of Trauma

A person may suffer ongoing effects of trauma through:

  • Reliving an event through flashbacks or nightmares
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Depression
  • Experiencing panic attacks
  • Phobias
  • Feeling guilt, anger, numbness, on edge
  • Sleeping problems
  • Misuse of alcohol, drugs, or addictive substances
  • Self-harm
  • Long-term physical health problems 

What is EMDR Therapy?

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a form of psychotherapy treatment designed to reduce the stress caused by traumatic life experiences and memories. It is a treatment option for people who have experienced trauma and may be used for other clinical purposes like treating mood disorders. This structured therapy encourages the patient to focus briefly on the traumatic memory while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation (typically eye movements), which is associated with reducing the vividness and emotion associated with the trauma memories.

Phases of Treatment

There are several phases of treatment with EMDR.

Phase 1

During the first phase, the psychologist takes the client’s history and develops a treatment plan.

Phase 2

The psychologist teaches the client methods to handle emotional distress. The imagery and distress reduction techniques can be implemented during and between the treatment sessions.

Phases 3 - 6

During these sessions, the client identifies a visual image of memory, related emotions, and physical reactions associated with the memory plus a negative and positive belief about themself. The psychologist encourages the client to rate the negative emotions and positive beliefs according to how strong they feel. The client then focuses on the visual image, negative thoughts, and body sensations during EMDR processing which may involve eye movements, tones, or taps. At the end of the stimulation, the patient lets their mind go blank and notices any changes experienced in their thoughts, images, or memories.  

The initial memory starts to become less distressing, and by the final session, it is completely clear from trauma for most people.  

The final phases of therapy involve the client keeping a log or diary of any related incidents they experience between sessions. The notes assist with practising the self-calming techniques learned during the earlier phases of treatment. 
Finally, the psychologist and client will examine the progress made with past incidents and how the client will handle future distressing events.

How Long Does it Take to Work?

Compared to other treatment methods, EMDR is a relatively quick form of treatment. The length of treatment depends upon the number of traumas and when the post-trauma effects began. A person who has experienced one major traumatic event in adulthood will take less time to treat than someone who has experienced multiple significant traumatic events.

Several studies show that 84-90% of single trauma victims no longer suffered from PTSD after just three 90-minute sessions. In another study, 100% of single-trauma victims and 77% of multiple-trauma victims no longer suffered from PTSD after 6 EMDR sessions.

What to Expect After EMDR Therapy?

EMDR is considered a safe and effective treatment but like all treatment methods, there are possible side effects. Some people experience the resurfacing of additional traumatic memories and emotional exhaustion. It is common for people to feel a little vulnerable or teary the day after a session. This is due to increased awareness as the traumatic memory starts desensitising and becomes less distressing. After the first session, many patients notice new memories, details, and dreams as the brain processes the material. Within a couple of sessions, most clients feel relieved and more so after completing the treatment. While a traumatic memory may still come up, it won’t cause the same overwhelming emotions, sensations, negative thoughts, and intrusive images that it once did.  

More Information

Our Therapeutic Services provide psychological therapy to treat a range of mental health difficulties and disorders and to assist people to enjoy a better quality of life. At Altius Group we provide EMDR therapy after determining it is suitable for the patient's symptoms and background. Contact us online or call 1800 258 487 for enquiries.

Let's overcome your health challenges