How Does EMDR Help Overcome Trauma and PTSD

How Does EMDR Help Overcome Trauma and PTSD?

How Does EMDR Help Overcome Trauma and PTSD?

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) is an effective therapy designed to help people deal with distressing memories, often caused by trauma. It’s a treatment of choice for PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) – studies show that 77% of patients experience a reduction in symptoms such as depression and anxiety. [1] The main benefits of PTSD are that it doesn’t involve talking about trauma in detail, it can provide fast and lasting results and teach you healthy coping skills.  

How Does EMDR Work?

EMDR isn’t a talking therapy; it directly alters the way a memory is stored in the brain. The theory behind this treatment method is that the memories that haven’t been processed can be broken down into components: thoughts, emotions, beliefs and sensations that one faced at the time of the traumatic event. The symptoms of PTSD are the result of the memory being triggered and re-experiencing all those components.

What Happens During EMDR Therapy?

At your first appointment, the therapist will discuss your distressing memories and triggers in order to come up with a treatment plan that allows you to focus on one goal per session. You’ll also be explained what you can expect from the treatment in general. Next, the therapist will help you identify a positive belief that contradicts your thoughts and feelings surrounding the traumatic event and can be used to help you process the upsetting memory in later sessions.

The main part of the treatment is what the name suggests; the eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing. You’ll be asked to think about the traumatic memory while the therapist directs your eye movement. As your eyes move from side to side, it prevents your working memory from fully concentrating on the traumatic memory, which makes you more desensitised and decreases negative emotions associated with trauma. Your therapist might also use hand tapping to encourage your brain to reprocess the traumatic experience. At the same time, you’ll be asked questions that will help your therapist understand what thoughts emerged during the session so that they can reinforce the positive belief discussed at your first appointment.

Your traumatic memory might be subjected to further processing if the unpleasant physical symptoms haven’t resolved, for example, muscle tension. To make the treatment more effective, you’ll be taught self-control techniques that you can practise at home, such as deep breathing or visualisation. At the end of the sessions, your therapist will review your goals and set targets for your next appointment.

If you experienced something traumatic and struggling to cope, understand that it’s nothing to be ashamed of and most people need professional help. Contact My Family Psychologist to discuss your treatment options


If you are feeling pressured or need someone to speak to, contact My Family Psychologist for a confidential chat about how we may be able to help.

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