EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing)

1. What is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR is based on a theoretical model called Adaptive Information Processing (AIP). According to this model, an information- processing system exist with our memory networks that brings all information about life events including negative ones to a positive platform irrespective of how disturbing they are. The information- processing system does this by associatively linking memories. This associative linking creates new meaning and perspectives regarding the event. The original memory loses its ‘emotional and physical charge’ and the images of the memory no long hold a mental grip. These are ‘processed’ memories of life experiences. The new meaning of the experience is used for future reference in case of experiencing similar event. 

It has a unique element of using side to side eye movements facilitated by the therapist and sometimes other forms of bilateral stimulation like alternate tapping or audio tones. The therapy was introduced by Francine Shapiro in 1987. Currently all of the EMDR is being done online but it is now known that EMDR can be delivered with the same level of effectiveness as in-person sessions. However, if the past unresolved traumas and current impact are complex or severe, the therapist may recommend client to await in-person therapy whenever that is permitted in the current covid restrictions.

2. What do we use it for?

It has clinically shown to be one of the most effective therapies for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) recommended by several major international guidelines. If we go by a text book definition, Traumatic Life event that constitutes PTSD needs to have the quality of being ‘exceptionally catastrophic’ and ‘life threatening’, however, at a clinical level, we see that day to day adverse life events that shakes one's sense of self especially in childhood could potentially generate a range of mental disorders like depression, anxiety, phobias, panic attacks, obsessive behaviours etc. (and not necessarily a PTSD diagnosis). Therefore, as clinicians we see EMDR being effective for any trauma related mental health issues.

3. Can you give me some examples of what types of ‘trauma’ that could be worked upon with EMDR?

Examples of adverse life events include negative childhood experiences (neglect, abuse of emotional, physical or sexual nature), bullying at school or any other situation, bereavement, assaults (sexual, physical), stressful divorce, road traffic accidents, near death experiences, medical catastrophes etc. It isn’t the nature or severity that is most relevant. The way a past event or multiple events are held in present time by the person and the impact it has currently on the person is relevant. Some people are resilient even in the face of major life threatening event/s and for others even a minor event could cause significant after-effects.

4. Am I suitable for this therapy?

Your suitability can be checked once you meet up with the therapist. Motivation and willingness to get better or improve quality of life is a key factor for a good outcome.