EMDR therapy | Bridging between the darkness of trauma and the light of healing Admin February 12, 2024

EMDR therapy | Bridging between the darkness of trauma and the light of healing

EMDR therapy is like a gentle wave, guiding you towards the shore of healing and self-discovery.

What is EMDR therapy?

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a psychotherapeutic approach designed to help individuals process and heal from the emotional distress and psychological symptoms associated with traumatic experiences, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and various forms of trauma. EMDR was developed in the late 1980s by Francine Shapiro and has gained widespread recognition and acceptance in the field of mental health. During EMDR sessions, clients are guided by trained therapists to recall distressing memories while simultaneously engaging in specific bilateral eye movements or other forms of bilateral stimulation. The goal is to facilitate the reprocessing of traumatic memories, reducing their emotional charge and enabling individuals to integrate these experiences into their broader life narrative in a less distressing way. EMDR is considered an evidence-based treatment and has been found to be effective in helping people recover from the debilitating effects of trauma and other distressing life events.

The video features a discussion on trauma between Ms. Ghania Kabbara, a Clinical Psychologist & Certified EMDR Therapist, and Ms. Lara Tyan, a Clinical Psychologist & EMDR Specialist, from the American Wellness Center in Dubai Healthcare City. They explore trauma’s impact, symptoms like flashbacks and irritability, and the importance of professional intervention. They also discuss vicarious trauma from media exposure and emphasize creating supportive communities and engaging in activities for coping. The necessity of seeking therapy when needed is highlighted as a crucial step towards healing.

EMDR therapy is primarily used to help individuals who have experienced trauma or distressing events process their memories and reduce associated emotional and psychological symptoms. It was initially developed to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it has since been used for various other conditions and issues, including:

  • EMDR is particularly effective in treating PTSD resulting from traumatic events like combat, accidents, natural disasters, or interpersonal violence.
  • EMDR can be beneficial for individuals who have experienced any form of trauma, such as childhood abuse, sexual assault, or emotional neglect.
  • It is often used to address anxiety disorders, especially when these disorders have their roots in traumatic experiences.
  • EMDR can help individuals overcome specific phobias and fears by reprocessing the memories associated with those fears.
  • In cases where depression is linked to unresolved trauma, EMDR can be a valuable therapeutic tool.
  • EMDR can assist individuals in coping with the grief and loss of a loved one or significant life changes.
  • Some people receive EMDR therapy to address performance anxiety, such as stage fright or test anxiety.

A qualified mental health professional, typically a licenced therapist or psychologist trained in EMDR, will conduct an assessment to determine if EMDR is an appropriate treatment option for an individual. EMDR should only be administered by trained and certified therapists who can tailor the therapy to meet the specific needs of each client. The therapy aims to help individuals process their traumatic memories, reduce emotional distress, and ultimately lead to improved mental and emotional well-being.

Is EMDR therapy an evidence bases treatment

EMDR therapy is an evidence-based treatment for several mental health conditions, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It has gained recognition and support from various mental health organisations and agencies, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), the American Psychological Association (APA), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in the United States.

Numerous research studies and clinical trials have demonstrated the effectiveness of EMDR therapy in reducing the symptoms of PTSD and trauma-related conditions. The therapy’s core principles, which involve reprocessing traumatic memories while using bilateral stimulation (such as eye movements or tapping), have been found to be beneficial for many individuals.

While EMDR is most strongly supported for the treatment of PTSD, research has also explored its efficacy in addressing other mental health issues such as anxiety disorders, depression, phobias, and various forms of trauma. As with any therapeutic approach, the effectiveness of EMDR therapy may vary from person to person. It’s important for individuals considering EMDR to work with a qualified and trained therapist who can assess their specific needs and tailor the treatment accordingly.

What is the difference between a clinical psychologist and an EMDR specialist psychologist?

The primary difference between a clinical psychologist and an EMDR specialist psychologist lies in their training and areas of expertise:

Clinical Psychologist

A clinical psychologist is a mental health professional with advanced training in psychology, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of a wide range of mental health and emotional issues. They work with clients across different age groups and with various mental health concerns, such as depression, anxiety, personality disorders, and more. Clinical psychologists may use a combination of therapeutic approaches tailored to the individual needs of their clients.

EMDR Specialist Psychologist

An EMDR specialist psychologist is a clinical psychologist who has received specialised training and certification in Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. These psychologists have undergone additional training and supervision in EMDR techniques and protocols. They specialise in helping individuals process and heal from traumatic experiences using EMDR therapy. While they can still provide a range of psychological services, their expertise is particularly focused on trauma and the use of EMDR as a therapeutic intervention.

EMDR therapy can be more suitable than other therapeutic approaches in certain situations and for specific individuals. Here are some scenarios in which EMDR therapy may be a particularly beneficial choice:

  1. Trauma and PTSD: EMDR therapy was originally developed to treat trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is often considered one of the most effective treatments for individuals who have experienced traumatic events and are struggling with symptoms like intrusive memories, nightmares, hypervigilance, and emotional numbing.
  2. Limited Progress with Traditional Talk Therapy: Some individuals may have already engaged in traditional talk therapy (e.g., cognitive-behavioural therapy or psychodynamic therapy) but have not made significant progress in processing traumatic memories or alleviating symptoms. EMDR can offer an alternative and potentially more effective approach for these cases.
  3.  Specific Phobias and Fears: EMDR can be a useful choice for addressing specific phobias or fears, especially when these issues are rooted in past traumatic experiences. The therapy can help individuals reprocess and desensitise their emotional responses to the triggers of their phobias.
  4.  Exposure to Multiple Traumas: EMDR can be beneficial for individuals who have experienced multiple traumatic events over their lifetime, as it provides a structured way to process and integrate these experiences.
  5.  Children and adolescents: EMDR can be adapted for use with children and adolescents who have experienced trauma or are struggling with symptoms like anxiety and PTSD. Child-friendly variations of EMDR are available to suit the developmental needs of younger clients.
  6. Reducing Emotional Intensity: EMDR can help individuals reduce the emotional intensity associated with traumatic memories, making them more manageable and less distressing.
  7. Accelerated Processing: EMDR is known for its potential to expedite the processing of traumatic memories compared to traditional talk therapy, making it an attractive option for those seeking relatively quicker results.
  8. Integration of Traumatic Memories: EMDR aims to help individuals integrate traumatic memories into their life story in a way that is less distressing, enabling them to move forward with their lives.

When should you opt to seek the help of an EMDR specialist for your symptoms?

Seeking the assistance of an EMDR specialist should be considered when you’re grappling with symptoms related to trauma, especially if these symptoms are interfering with your daily life and well-being.

If you find yourself frequently re-experiencing distressing memories, suffering from flashbacks or nightmares, struggling with overwhelming anxiety, or avoiding situations or triggers associated with past trauma, it may be time to consult an EMDR therapist. Furthermore, if you notice that your trauma-related symptoms are impairing your relationships, work, or overall functioning, seeking the expertise of an EMDR specialist can be an important step towards recovery. EMDR therapy provides a structured and evidence-based approach to help you process and integrate these traumatic memories, gradually reducing their emotional impact and enabling you to regain control over your life.

It’s also important to consider EMDR therapy when you feel ready to confront and work through your trauma in a therapeutic setting. EMDR can offer a safe and effective space for individuals who are motivated to address their past experiences and are seeking a therapeutic approach that may expedite the healing process. While it’s essential to work collaboratively with a mental health professional to determine the best course of treatment for your specific needs, EMDR therapy can be a valuable resource for those ready to embark on a journey of recovery and resilience after trauma.

What to expect during an EMDR session (step-by-step guide)

An Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) session with your EMDR specialist typically follows a structured and systematic approach. Here’s a step-by-step guide to what you can expect during an EMDR session:

  • Your first EMDR session will involve a comprehensive assessment and history-taking. You and your EMDR specialist will discuss your background, current symptoms, and the specific traumatic experiences or issues you want to address in therapy. This phase helps the therapist understand your unique needs and tailor the treatment plan accordingly.
  • Based on the assessment, your EMDR specialist will develop a treatment plan that outlines your therapeutic goals and the target memories or issues to address during EMDR therapy.
  • Before starting the actual EMDR processing, your therapist will prepare you for the therapy process. This includes explaining how EMDR works, what to expect during the sessions, and discussing any potential challenges or concerns. You’ll also learn and practice relaxation and grounding techniques to ensure you feel safe and in control throughout the process.
  • During the desensitisation phase of EMDR, you will engage in bilateral stimulation, which can involve tracking the therapist’s fingers with your eyes as they move back and forth or using handheld buzzers, tapping, or auditory tones. This bilateral stimulation is a key component of EMDR and helps facilitate the reprocessing of traumatic memories.
  • With the therapist’s guidance, you will focus on a specific traumatic memory or issue while simultaneously engaging in bilateral stimulation. You may be asked to describe the memory, including thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and beliefs associated with it.
  • As you continue to engage in bilateral stimulation, your therapist will guide you through the processing of the memory. This may involve encouraging you to notice any shifts in thoughts, emotions, or sensations as the memory is reprocessed. The goal is to reduce the emotional distress and negative beliefs associated with memory.
  • Throughout the session, your EMDR specialist will periodically stop the bilateral stimulation to check in with you and assess your progress. You’ll be asked to report on any changes in your thoughts, emotions, or physical sensations related to the targeted memory.
  • Once the distress associated with the traumatic memory has decreased, your therapist will guide you in installing positive beliefs or self-statements to replace the negative ones that were associated with the memory.
  • At the end of the session, your therapist will help you return to a state of relaxation and emotional equilibrium, if needed. They will also discuss any self-care strategies or homework assignments to help you process and integrate the session’s experiences between sessions.
  • Subsequent EMDR sessions will continue the processing of targeted memories or issues until your therapeutic goals are met. Each session will build on the progress made in previous sessions.
  • It’s important to note that EMDR therapy is highly individualised, and the pace of progress can vary from person to person. Your EMDR specialist will provide a safe and supportive environment throughout the process, helping you work through and heal from traumatic experiences and related symptoms.


How many sessions of EMDR therapy are suitable to address your symptoms of trauma, depression, or anxiety?

The number of EMDR therapy sessions needed to address symptoms of trauma, depression, and anxiety can vary significantly from person to person. Several factors influence the duration of EMDR therapy, including the severity and complexity of your symptoms, your response to treatment, and your individual therapeutic goals. Here are some general guidelines:

  1. Severity of Symptoms: Individuals with severe and debilitating symptoms may require a longer course of treatment. This could involve 12 sessions or more to achieve significant symptom reduction and functional improvement.
  2. Type and History of Trauma: The type and history of trauma also play a role. Single traumatic events may require fewer sessions (perhaps 6–12), while complex trauma resulting from multiple experiences over time might necessitate a more extended treatment period.
  3. Therapeutic Goals: Your goals for therapy can influence the number of sessions. If your primary goal is symptom reduction and improved daily functioning, a shorter course of treatment may suffice. However, if you’re seeking deeper insight and personal growth, it could take more sessions.
  4. Response to Treatment: Individual responses to EMDR therapy vary. Some people may experience significant improvement in just a few sessions, while others may need more time to process their trauma and symptoms fully.
  5. Consistency and regularity The frequency and regularity of your EMDR sessions can also affect the treatment timeline. Consistent weekly or biweekly sessions are typically recommended for optimal progress.
  6. Personal Factors Your own readiness and willingness to engage in therapy, complete homework assignments, and actively participate in the process can influence how quickly you progress.

It’s crucial to approach EMDR therapy with realistic expectations, understanding that it’s a goal-oriented and time-limited treatment. The specific number of sessions needed should be determined through ongoing discussions with your EMDR therapist. They will work with you to set treatment goals, monitor your progress, and adjust the treatment plan as necessary to meet your individual needs. Ultimately, the duration of EMDR therapy should align with your specific therapeutic goals and your therapist’s clinical judgement.

Don’t let the weight of unprocessed trauma hold you back any longer. Reach out to us at the American Wellness Center, and let’s embark on this healing journey together. With EMDR therapy, find the strength to navigate through your past and into a future filled with hope and self-discovery. Contact us today to learn more about how EMDR can help you reclaim your life and wellbeing.