PLEASE NOTE: Due to a high increase in referrals, we had to unfortunately close our books until further notice. We are not looking to hire other clinicians at this stage.

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EMDR Therapy

“Psychopathology is a disorder of the memory”

EMDR is a form of psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. EMDR is a powerful treatment that many clients have referred to as “life-changing”. 
The approach can work to resolve all types of trauma, phobias, anxiety, depression, grief, addiction and many, many more symptoms. EMDR therapy is regularly used in Europe, Canada and the USA and thankfully it is gaining more traction in Australia.

The letters EMDR stand for Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing and it is an evidence-based treatment. EMDR Therapy is quite unique because, unlike most talking therapies, it does not require you to speak about what happened in very much detail.

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Psychopathology is a disorder of the MEMORY - The theory behind EMDR

Psychopathology is anything related to mental health issues, ranging from depression and anxiety, to substance use, eating disorders, self-harm and PTSD.  EMDR Therapy views all emotional, psychological and behavioural difficulties as being related to ‘stuck’ (unprocessed) memories.

Dr Roger Solomon, a leading psychologist in the EMDR field explains: “talking helps, but does not seem to get to the part of the brain where the memory is ‘frozen’. This is why distressing events continue to be experienced and relived, despite telling the story or talking about it. These experiences are living in ‘trauma time’ and may be continually be re-experienced. EMDR therapy is a therapeutic approach that goes ‘beyond words’ to resolve the memories that get stuck.”

To watch Dr Solomon in action, you can find videos of a real EMDR session clicking the button below.

“Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing is about creating change you do choose.”
- Michelle Rosenthal, trauma counsellor

Removing the blockage and reprogramming the memory

It is widely assumed that (severe) emotional pain requires a long time to heal. EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma in much of the same way the body recovers from physical trauma. When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the blockage is removed, healing resumes.

A similar sequence of events happens with mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward (restoring) balance. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. Once the blockage is removed, healing resumes.

EMDR Therapy

EMDR is a safe and effective therapy. Like any therapy it can be emotionally intense, however at all times will you feel you are in control. This is especially important since the triggers likely started when you didn’t feel in control.

The World Health Organization, (WHO) recognises EMDR as the first-choice treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the Australian Psychological Society (APS) has named EMDR therapy as a Level I evidence-based psychological intervention for posttraumatic stress disorder in adults.

Although EMDR is slowly upcoming in Australia, EMDR therapy has over 30 years of research supporting its effectiveness, particularly for trauma, but also for many other emotional, psychological, and behavioural difficulties. In fact, EMDR therapy is useful whenever painful memories are causing a significant disturbance and/or a negative view about oneself.

Therapy is about building new associations, making new, healthier pathways”
- Dr Bruce Perry, Psychiatrist and trauma specialist

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If we don’t talk, then what will we do?

Ok, we’re going to get a little technical here for just a moment. Bear with me, it will make sense. Instead of talking about the specific details, EMDR Therapy makes use of what is called bi-lateral stimulation (BLS), which means that both sides of the body are stimulated, one after the other. (In case you were wondering: there is no touching involved) Eye movements are the most commonly used type of bilateral stimulation and the movements are believed to mimic the eye movements of REM sleep (the ‘dream’ stage of sleep where memories are processed and lessons are learned). Nowadays there are additional options for BLS, such as vibrating buzzers for your hands (see the photo), a light bar, tapping and sound.

After identifying the memories that are still upsetting, or by documenting the current triggers (e.g. a sound, a time of the year, a location), the client is asked to recall specific aspects, whilst BLS is applied, until the memory processing has completed. This can happen very quickly, depending on the memory, and very little talking about what happened is required.

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Finding an EMDR Therapist

EMDR is an evidence-based treatment and part of what this means is that it has a strict protocol that is used during your treatment. It is important that EMDR therapists have extensive clinical experience and are officially trained in EMDR, as taught by the International Association of EMDR (EMDRIA). One way of knowing that your clinician meets the standards of practice is by asking if they are registered with a professional EMDR body, such as EMDRIA, EMDRAA (Australian Association of EMDR) or EMDRNZ (New Zealand association of EMDR). It will benefit you if the EMDR therapist is aware of the latest research and changes in protocol and that they feel comfortable treating your particular problem.

In addition, it is important that you feel a sense of trust and rapport with your clinician. It is normal that it takes several sessions to build that trust. For some people, it may take many sessions and that is why it is important that you find someone who you feel is knowledgeable, caring and patient. Feel free to ask questions (e.g. are you registered with an EMDR organisation; do you use the full eight phases standard protocol; how many people with my issue/disorder have you successfully treated?). Every treatment success is a result of the interaction between the client, the clinician and the therapy.