EMDR Therapy is a powerful psychological treatment that has been shown to be highly effective in alleviating symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as well as many other common psychological conditions.  EMDR Therapy is particularly effective when psychological issues occur as a result of trauma or other adverse life experiences.   EMDR Therapy works through a process known as Adaptive Information Processing (AIP), which works on the principle that adverse or traumatic experiences can become ‘stuck’ in episodic memory, causing maladaptive reactions and ongoing emotional disturbances that are linked through memory networks to the original event.   In the case of PTSD, symptoms such as nightmares, flashbacks’, and hypervigilance are common.  Adverse experiences are also often at the root of common psychological problems such as depression and anxiety, even though the link to the causal event(s) may not be obvious to the person experiencing these conditions.  Problems typically arise when the content of an adverse experience is too uncomfortable or overwhelming to deal with in the way normal life experiences are processed:  through a sorting process that occurs during sleep, particularly Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. These emotionally intense experiences also tend to distort the way we see the world, creating maladaptive core beliefs (e.g. “I am not safe”, or “I am a failure”), as well as various uncomfortable physical sensations (e.g. tightness in the chest or throat areas, nausea).

EMDR Therapy works by inducing a state of consciousness that is something like REM sleep, allowing ‘stuck’ memories to be moved from episodic memory into semantic, or historical memory.  In many cases, this transformation of memory networks is powerful and relief from psychological symptoms occurs rapidly.   The changes to memory networks associated with the past adverse experiences are typically permanent (unless something should later occur to reinstate the treated memories).  Patients typically report a significant reduction in intrusive, disturbing memories, and markedly reduced distress and anxiety.  Physical symptoms associated with the psychological disturbance also tend to normalise following treatment.

How long does it take?

EMDR Therapy itself can usually be undertaken in only a few sessions (typically 60 to 90 minutes per session), although each patient undergoes some assessment and preparatory treatment prior to the administration of the EMDR Therapy itself.  The time required to prepare each person for EMDR Therapy varies depending on presenting issues and symptoms and the individual’s degree of readiness.  Your therapist will spend some time with you exploring your personal history and circumstances, determining if EMDR is appropriate for you, and answering any questions you may have about the EMDR Therapy process.  Some people require quite extensive periods of therapy in preparation for EMDR Therapy, while others with a single, simple trauma event in their history may be able to be treated successfully in only a few sessions.   It is important to understand that EMDR Therapy is not a ‘quick fix’ for all psychological problems; it is a powerful tool that an appropriately trained therapist can use when warranted.

For more information on EMDR, there are links to a number of YouTube videos that provide a good overview of the EMDR Therapy process (see below).

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