Treating Trauma with Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Mental Health

Many people will experience a traumatic event at some point in their life. Emotional pain following trauma is normal, but if it isn't properly dealt with, long term suffering and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can result. For some people, such as first responders, witnessing traumatic events is part of their job.

Unresolved Trauma

Whether you have experienced one traumatic event or many, unresolved trauma can lead to the following symptoms:

  • Intrusive memories and images of the event; 
  • Avoidance behaviours or avoiding thinking about the event;
  • Hyperarousal symptoms such as irritability or an exaggerated startle response; and
  • Unhelpful thoughts about yourself in relation to the event, such as "it's my fault".

Engaging in an evidence-based treatment can help relieve symptoms and prevent the development of more complex symptoms and co-occurring disorders such as depression or substance abuse.

Effective Treatment for Trauma

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR) is an effective treatment approach for trauma memories. Alongside trauma-focused cognitive-behavioural therapy, it is the only other psychotherapy with Level 1 evidence for the treatment of PTSD.

EMDR began in the 1980s and is now supported by a large body of research, with over 24 randomised control trials have demonstrated its effectiveness. It is also recognised as being able to reprocess distressing memories swiftly, and making connections with other traumatic memories stored in the brain. In other words, it is often more efficient.

How EMDR Works

The goals of EMDR are to:

  • Reduce the distress associated with the traumatic memory;
  • Make the memory less clear or vivid; and
  • Help the person to have a more positive or adaptive belief about oneself with reference to the memory.

Treatment involves focusing on the past, present and future during an eight-phase treatment. After a thorough assessment, the psychologist will help the client decide on which memory to target first. Then the client is asked to hold the memory in their mind while focusing on an external stimulus such as the psychologist’s moving finger. The client’s eye movement (or another bilateral stimulation) following the finger taxes their working memory, so that when the memories recalled later they become more distant, and the distress reduced.

Experts in Treating Trauma

PeopleSense has over 15 psychologists trained in EMDR and can provide treatment to clients following personal or work-related traumas. It is not, however, appropriate for everyone and so your psychologist will discuss this with you during your assessment. If you would like more information about how EMDR may help you or someone close to you, contact PeopleSense on 1300 307 912

People carrying trauma and emotional pain often feel that no-one will understand what they are experiencing. If you are a manager and are concerned about an employee and would like to speak to a professional, contact the PeopleSense Management Assistance Team on 1300 307 912.
Category: Mental Health