Understanding Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR): A Guide to EMDR Therapy Melbourne

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on EMDR therapy in Melbourne. If you’re seeking a scientifically supported therapeutic option for coping with trauma, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, or chronic stress, 

EMDR therapy could provide the evidence-based solution you need. 

Our aim is to demystify EMDR therapy by providing you with all the information and support you need to decide whether this therapy might be able to help you. 

We recommend exploring this with your therapist, psychologist, or clinical psychologist.

Key Takeaways

  • EMDR therapy is an effective, internationally recognised treatment for PTSD, anxiety, depression, and more, structured in an eight-phase process involving bilateral stimulation to help process traumatic experiences.
  • Studies show EMDR can be as or more successful than traditional treatments like CBT and is also accessible for individuals who struggle with verbal expression, as it doesn’t rely on extensive talking.
  • Melbourne offers professional EMDR services with telehealth options, and patients can use strategies like the butterfly hug at home to manage symptoms between sessions.

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on EMDR therapy in Melbourne. If you’re seeking a scientifically supported therapeutic option for coping with trauma, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, or chronic stress, EMDR therapy could provide the evidence-based solution you need. 

Our aim is to demystify EMDR therapy by providing you with all the information and support you need to decide whether this therapy might be able to help you. We recommend exploring this with your therapist, psychologist, or clinical psychologist.

Key Takeaways

  • EMDR therapy is an effective, internationally recognised treatment for PTSD, anxiety, depression, and more, structured in an eight-phase process involving bilateral stimulation to help process traumatic experiences.
  • Studies show EMDR can be as or more successful than traditional treatments like CBT and is also accessible for individuals who struggle with verbal expression, as it doesn’t rely on extensive talking.
  • Melbourne offers professional EMDR services with telehealth options, and patients can use strategies like the butterfly hug at home to manage symptoms between sessions.

Table of Contents

Understanding EMDR Therapy

Traumatic memories are generally the target of therapy

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a form of interactive psychotherapy that brings awareness to mental images, feelings, and physical sensations associated with traumatic memories whilst moving one’s eyes rapidly. The traumatic memories may be experienced in a number of ways including:

  • imagery linked to trauma
  • pervasive negative beliefs
  • emotional responses
  • somatic experiences

Bilateral Stimulation

Traumatic memories are targeted with a technique called Bilateral Stimulation. This is a distinctive process involving the rhythmic left-right stimulation of the brain. This form of stimulation is believed to activate parts of the brain associated with traumatic memory storage at the same time as activating the brains working memory. Such brain activity is associated with the processing of traumatic memories. Bilateral stimulation can be achieved through various methods, such as:

  • Side-to-side eye movements, where the client follows the therapist’s fingers or a moving object.
  • Auditory tones that are played alternately in each ear.
  • Physical taps or gentle touches (tactile sensations) that alternate from left to right on the client’s hands, knees, or shoulders.

The purpose of bilateral stimulation is to help the brain work through distressing memories and thoughts by activating both hemispheres of the brain. This is thought to facilitate the reduction of emotional distress and to promote the development of new, more adaptive insights and beliefs related to the traumatic or stressful experiences. By engaging both sides of the brain, clients are able to reprocess the memory in a way that reduces its troubling impact.

History of EMDR Therapy

In 1987, Francine Shapiro discovered that eye movements of clients had the potential to reduce the intensity of negative emotions tied to her clients’ traumatic memories. Following this ground-breaking observation, Shapiro engaged in rigorous research and clinical trials to explore this phenomenon further. Her dedication led to the formalisation of Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, which she introduced as a targeted treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to the professional psychology community in 1989. The subsequent years witnessed a surge in scientific research aimed at validating the efficacy of EMDR. Numerous studies were conducted, including randomised controlled trials, which are considered the gold standard in clinical research.

EMDR Therapy Applications

EMDR therapy has demonstrated evidence in alleviating a range of clinical mental health issues, including but not limited to:

  • PTSD
  • Complex PTSD
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Depression
  • Eating Disorders
  • Panic Attacks
Therapists at Cova Psychology

Addressing Trauma and PTSD

Studies have consistently demonstrated that EMDR is effective in reducing the symptoms of PTSD and other trauma-related disorders. Due to this growing body of evidence, EMDR gained recognition and endorsement from leading mental health organisations, including the Australian Psychological Society, American Psychological Association and the World Health Organisation, as a valid therapeutic approach for the treatment of trauma and stress-related conditions.

In the Melbourne, health professionals are now widely offering EMDR as part their private practice counselling services to support individuals dealing with PTSD and trauma.

Managing Anxiety and Panic Disorders with EMDR

EMDR therapy is recognised as an effective intervention for a spectrum of anxiety conditions, including generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and phobias. By directing eye movements in conjunction with focusing on distressing events, EMDR assists individuals in transitioning to positive cognitive patterns, thereby reducing symptoms associated with anxiety.

EMDR offers benefits for adults and adolescents who may struggle with articulating their experiences or who may feel profound distress during discussions about their anxieties. This therapeutic process facilitates emotional healing with a reduced emphasis on verbal discourse about these anxieties, presenting a more approachable, compassionate, and perhaps less daunting alternative for managing anxiety-related conditions.

EMDR is a structured and phased treatment

EMDR involves a number of phases which starts with the collection of a patient’s family history and devising a plan for treatment, followed by preparatory steps. Subsequently, it involves assessment, desensitisation phase, a phase to work with beliefs or thought patterns, a body scan phase to identify any residual physical sensations associated with traumatic memories.

Assessment Phase

The assessment phase of EMDR therapy is crucial for establishing a groundwork for the subsequent treatment and ensuring that the therapist and the client is adequately prepared for what comes next. This stage often centres on collecting information about the client’s mental health, and current life challenges. This phase also involves setting up treatment goals and planning ahead for the structured phases of EMDR.

The establishment of a strong therapeutic relationship is an important component of EMDR therapy, and this will begin during the assessment phase. This therapeutic relationship is built on trust, safety, and mutual respect, which are essential for clients to feel comfortable sharing and working through deeply personal and often distressing experiences. A positive therapeutic alliance contributes significantly to the effectiveness of the treatment, as clients are more likely to stay engaged and committed to the therapeutic process when they feel understood and supported by their therapist. By fostering a strong connection, therapists can better tailor the treatment to the individual needs of the client, creating a collaborative environment that facilitates healing and growth.

One of the primary goals during this phase is pinpointing and understanding the precise traumatic incident as well as the relationships between its connected components, such as:

  • visual representations
  • thought patterns
  • emotional responses
  • physical experiences

Preparing for EMDR Therapy

Preparation is a key step before beginning EMDR therapy with your psychologist. To ensure the most beneficial outcome, it’s important to focus on stabilising your mood and lifestyle. This includes engaging in activities that promote emotional well-being and resilience, such as maintaining a regular sleep schedule, eating nutritious meals, and participating in regular physical activity. It is critically important for clients embarking on EMDR therapy to have robust emotion regulation skills, especially for those with complex trauma histories or those experiencing conditions like Borderline Personality Disorder. Enhancing these skills is essential before beginning any trauma processing because it provides a stable emotional base from which to work. Emotion regulation skills help clients manage and withstand the intense feelings that can arise during EMDR without becoming overwhelmed. These skills are particularly beneficial for individuals with complex trauma, as they often encounter a range of emotions that can be triggered during therapy sessions. Similarly, for those with Borderline Personality Disorder, strong emotion regulation skills are vital. By developing techniques such as mindfulness, deep breathing, and grounding exercises, clients can create a more resilient emotional framework, better preparing them for the therapeutic work of processing traumatic memories with EMDR.

Complementary Therapies

EMDR therapy can be effectively complemented with a variety of therapeutic approaches such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Schema Therapy to address a broad spectrum of psychological conditions. Clinical psychologists often integrate these therapies alongside EMDR to enhance the therapeutic process.

CBT is a structured, interactive form of psychological treatment that requires active participation through various tasks. It operates on the principle that thoughts, emotions, and behaviours are interconnected, and is commonly used by clinical psychologists to help patients with diverse mental health issues.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is another valuable therapeutic approach that can be used in conjunction with EMDR. ACT is a form of cognitive-behavioural therapy that emphasises psychological flexibility, helping individuals to accept their thoughts and feelings rather than fighting or feeling guilty for them. The core principle of ACT is to stop avoiding, denying, and struggling with inner emotions and, instead, accept that these deeper feelings are appropriate responses to certain situations that should not prevent them from moving forward in their lives.

DBT, initially devised for treating Borderline Personality Disorder, teaches skills such as mindfulness and emotional regulation. These skills are designed to improve relationships and life quality, and can also be beneficial when combined with EMDR therapy, particularly for individuals facing intense emotional distress or interpersonal challenges.

Schema Therapy is another integrative approach that combines elements of CBT, attachment theory, psychodynamic concepts, and emotion-focused therapies. It focuses on identifying and changing deeply rooted patterns or schemas that can underlie chronic psychological problems. When used with EMDR, Schema Therapy can help individuals gain deeper insights into their long-standing issues, leading to profound and lasting changes.

By employing a combination of these therapies with EMDR, psychologists can tailor treatment to the unique needs of each individual, facilitating recovery from a range of mental health conditions and promoting overall well-being.

Therapists at Cova Psychology

Telehealth EMDR Therapy Options

The ease of access to online EMDR therapy has been of benefit to many clients, particularly during events like the pandemic-imposed COVID-19 restrictions. To engage in and practise this form of remote therapy, you require:

  • A reliable internet connection
  • A computer or tablet equipped with a webcam
  • Headphones for clear audio
  • A confidential space where privacy is ensured
  • Access to a phone throughout your session

Face-to-Face vs. Telehealth EMDR Therapy Options

Your therapist can help you decide whether EMDR via telehealth could be effective for you. The recommendations of an experienced EMDR therapist are important here, because for some people, EMDR works better face to face rather than through the online medium. In-person sessions can offer a more tangible therapeutic presence and support, which some individuals may require in order to safely participate in the therapy. The physical setting of a therapist’s office can also contribute to a sense of ritual and formality that facilitates the therapeutic process. On the other hand, telehealth sessions provide greater accessibility and convenience, particularly for those with mobility issues, time constraints, or who live in remote areas. It also allows individuals to experience therapy in the comfort of their own home, which can be a calming factor for many. Ultimately, the choice between face-to-face and telehealth EMDR therapy should be made based on personal preference, lifestyle considerations, and the specific recommendations of a qualified EMDR therapist.

EMDR at Home

EMDR offers clients a unique aspect in that it allows for the use of bilateral stimulation methods at home. Simple and effective strategies such as self-tapping or the butterfly hug can be powerful tools for individuals to handle symptoms outside of therapy sessions, providing them with practical easily accessible means to cope with their emotional states.

Bilateral stimulation may be able to implement in one’s day to day life as both a form of self-care as well as an emotion regulation strategy.

Who is EMDR not suitable for?

EMDR therapy may not be immediately suitable for everyone. Certain individuals may require alternative therapeutic approaches to stabilise or address other serious mental health or issues before commencing EMDR. It’s crucial to have a thorough consultation with a healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate and safe treatment pathway. If engaging in EMDR may result in adverse reactions such as extreme levels of distress which cannot be tolerate, your psychologist may recommend a more appropriate treatment. For many people, other forms of therapy will be more beneficial to stabilise emotional states, and EMDR could be considered at a later stage.

Stay Updated with Our Expert Video Series

Summary

To summarise, EMDR therapy stands out as an effective method for processing traumatic memories and experiences through its unique approach of bilateral stimulation. This technique uses bilateral stimulation to assist the brain to reorganise and heal from trauma. Its success in treating various mental health issues such as PTSD, anxiety, and depression is acknowledged worldwide, with its evidence-based protocol offering a structured pathway towards recovery.

For people who are looking for support with life challenges such as trauma, anxiety, grief or stress, this compassionate, evidence-based approach to counselling can be life-changing.

cova-author

Dr. Chris Coleiro

Chris is a co-director of Cova Psychology, where he provides supervision to psychologists whilst cultivating a supportive culture within the Cova team. Chris has worked extensively in the assessment and treatment of trauma, PTSD, and Borderline Personality Disorder. He combines a range of therapies in his approach including CBT, Schema Therapy, EMDR and IFS.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments