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EMDR research - the latest updates


Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a form of psychotherapy that has been increasingly recognised for its ability to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories. Developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s, EMDR therapy uses a structured approach involving bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements, to process traumatic experiences and promote healing.

This comprehensive guide provides insights into EMDR research, delving deeply into its effectiveness in treating multiple psychological conditions and trauma-related symptoms. The efficacy of this therapeutic approach is illuminated by numerous research findings, contributing to our understanding of EMDR's role in facilitating mental health recovery.

Among experts in the field, Tracey Brittain stands out as a seasoned EMDR therapist. Her extensive experience and knowledge have aided countless individuals on their journey towards healing and recovery. For those interested in exploring EMDR therapy, her practice can be found at

Understanding EMDR Therapy

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a type of therapy that was originally created to help people deal with the distress caused by traumatic memories. It is an approach that combines different methods and has been extensively studied and proven effective, especially for treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

What is EMDR Therapy?

At its core, EMDR therapy is based on the idea that emotional healing happens naturally when someone can safely access and process their traumatic memories. What makes this therapy unique is the use of bilateral stimulation, which usually involves moving the eyes from side to side. This bilateral stimulation is believed to activate the brain's natural ability to process and integrate traumatic information.

The process of EMDR therapy consists of eight main phases:

  1. History Taking: The therapist learns about the client's background to create an effective treatment plan.

  2. Preparation: The client learns coping techniques to manage stress and stay emotionally stable during therapy.

  3. Assessment: A specific memory is chosen for treatment, along with any related images, beliefs, or physical sensations.

  4. Desensitization: The client focuses on the memory while experiencing bilateral stimulation until the distress lessens.

  5. Installation: Positive beliefs are strengthened to replace negative thoughts connected to the trauma.

  6. Body Scan: The client checks for any remaining physical tension related to the memory, which is then addressed in therapy.

  7. Closure: Techniques are used to help the client feel calm and grounded at the end of each session.

  8. Reevaluation: Progress is reviewed in subsequent sessions, and plans for further treatment are made if needed.

History and Development of EMDR Therapy

EMDR therapy was created by Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1987 after she accidentally discovered that eye movements seemed to reduce the intensity of her own distressing thoughts. Through her research, Shapiro found that these eye movements could help desensitise traumatic memories, and she began testing this approach with individuals who had experienced trauma.

The initial study published in 1989 showed that EMDR therapy was effective in reducing trauma symptoms in both Vietnam combat veterans and survivors of sexual assault. Since then, it has continued to evolve through clinical practice and scientific research, becoming an evidence-based therapy for various psychological conditions beyond just PTSD.

Overview of the 8 Phases of EMDR Therapy

Phase 1: History Taking – In this initial stage, therapists gather detailed information about their clients' past experiences, current situations, and future goals to inform a comprehensive treatment plan.

Phase 2: Preparation – Clients are introduced to EMDR therapy procedures and trained in self-control techniques like deep breathing or mindfulness exercises to utilize between sessions or when facing overwhelming stress.

Phase 3: Assessment – Therapists collaborate with clients to select specific traumatic memories for processing while establishing negative self-beliefs related to these events alongside preferred positive beliefs for future installation.

Phase 4: Desensitisation – While focusing on target memories and associated emotions or sensations, clients engage in bilateral stimulation under therapist guidance until distress levels decrease significantly.

Phase 5: Installation – Positive beliefs identified earlier are strengthened until they become more prominent than trauma-related negatives cognitions.

Phase 6: Body Scan – Clients search within themselves for residual physical tension related to target memories; any detected discomfort becomes a new focus for processing.

Phase 7: Closure – Session’s end with clients being returned to a state of equilibrium using techniques learned during phase two preparation.

Phase 8: Revaluation – Subsequent sessions begin with evaluating clients' progress since the last meeting; this informs potential adjustments or next steps within their personalised therapy journey.

Each phase plays a pivotal role in guiding clients from initial assessment through reprocessing and integration toward resolution — transforming traumatic memories into benign recollections devoid of former emotional charge.

EMDR Therapy: A Powerful Approach to Healing

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy has emerged as a rapid and effective therapy, particularly in treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and trauma-related disorders. This section explores the key benefits of EMDR therapy and its application in healing trauma.

Key Benefits of EMDR Therapy

EMDR therapy provides several benefits that contribute to its effectiveness as a therapeutic approach:

  • Efficiency: Compared to traditional forms of psychotherapy, EMDR often achieves results more rapidly. The structured eight-phase approach facilitates swift progression towards healing.

  • Comprehensive Treatment: EMDR targets past experiences, current triggers, and future potential challenges. This comprehensive approach addresses the full scope of an individual's experience.

  • Non-reliance on Talk Therapy: Unlike many other therapies, EMDR does not rely heavily on discussing distressing events or experiences. This makes it suitable for individuals who find verbalizing their experiences challenging.

  • Body-Mind Connection: EMDR acknowledges the interconnectedness of mind and body in healing. It uses this connection to facilitate the processing of traumatic memories.

Treating PTSD and Trauma-Related Disorders with EMDR

Research has indicated that traumatic events can disrupt the brain's natural healing process, leading to psychological issues such as PTSD. Many people suffering from PTSD continue to relive these traumatic events through intrusive thoughts, nightmares, or flashbacks. These symptoms can also manifest physically, leading to sleep disturbances, fatigue, or chronic pain.

EMDR therapy is particularly effective for these individuals due to its unique focus on reprocessing traumatic memories. The repetitive eye movements used in EMDR help activate the brain's natural healing process. This allows individuals to integrate and understand their traumatic experiences better without being overwhelmed by distressing emotions.

The use of EMDR in treating PTSD has been supported by multiple research studies. For instance, a study by Rothbaum et al. found that 84% of single-trauma victims no longer met the criteria for PTSD after just three 90-minute EMDR sessions. Another study by Ironson et al. reported significant decreases in PTSD symptoms among adult survivors of childhood abuse following EMDR treatment.

The application of EMDR extends beyond PTSD to other trauma-related disorders as well. Conditions such as acute stress disorder, complex PTSD, and various types of anxiety disorders have been treated effectively with EMDR therapy.

While the following sections will delve deeper into the research findings supporting the effectiveness of EMDR therapy, it is important to remember that the success of this approach relies heavily on the therapist's expertise. One such seasoned professional is Tracey Brittain, an EMDR therapist who has demonstrated how this therapy can facilitate healing when administered correctly. The insights from her experience will be explored in a subsequent section.

The Role of the EMDR Therapist: Insights from Tracey Brittain

EMDR Therapy is a complex process that requires an experienced and qualified professional to guide the patient through its eight phases. The therapist plays a crucial role in ensuring the therapy's success. Tracey Brittain, a seasoned EMDR therapist, provides valuable insights into this therapeutic approach.

Choosing a Qualified EMDR Therapist

The significance of selecting a properly trained and certified EMDR therapist cannot be overstated. Your therapist should have the following qualifications:

  • Comprehensive training in EMDR therapy from an accredited institution.

  • Certification from an authorised body like the EMDR International Association (EMDRIA).

  • Extensive experience in treating trauma-related disorders.

Tracey Brittain meets all these criteria and has accumulated substantial experience in facilitating healing through EMDR therapy. Her expertise spans various kinds of trauma, including PTSD, anxiety disorders, and depressive symptoms.

Insights from Tracey Brittain's Experience with EMDR Therapy

From her extensive experience as an EMDR therapist, Tracey Brittain offers several key takeaways:

  1. Individualised Approach: Every person's experience with trauma is unique. Hence, the treatment plan should be tailored to fit the individual's needs. A skilled therapist will adapt the standard protocol to suit each client's specific situation.

  2. Establishing Safety: Before delving into traumatic memories, it's essential to create a safe space for the client. This process might involve teaching coping strategies or grounding techniques that can help manage distressing emotions during and after therapy sessions.

  3. Processing Trauma: This phase involves helping clients reprocess traumatic memories in a way that reduces their distressing power. It can be a difficult process requiring patience and resilience from both therapist and client.

  4. Outcome Evaluation: Regular check-ins are integral to monitor progress and adjust treatment plans as necessary.

Brittain emphasises that the relationship between therapist and client is key to successful therapy. Trust, empathy, and understanding form the foundation of this therapeutic alliance.

Research Findings on the Effectiveness of EMDR Therapy

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy has been studied extensively through research using different methods. The effectiveness of EMDR is mainly assessed using quantitative measures, with randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and systematic literature reviews being the most reliable approaches.

Understanding EMDR: How Research Works

Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs):

  1. RCTs are scientific experiments designed to minimize bias when testing new treatments.

  2. Participants are randomly assigned to either receive the treatment being studied or be in a control group.

  3. By comparing outcomes between these groups, researchers can confidently determine the effects of the treatment.

Systematic Literature Reviews:

  1. These reviews involve analysing results from multiple RCTs and other studies to draw broader conclusions about a therapy's effectiveness.

  2. Researchers follow a structured process to identify, evaluate, and summarize findings from relevant research.

  3. The goal is to provide a comprehensive summary of current evidence, highlighting consistencies and discrepancies across studies.

Key Findings on EMDR's Effectiveness

Depressive Symptoms:

  • Multiple RCTs show significant improvement in depressive symptoms among individuals undergoing EMDR therapy.

  • Evidence suggests that EMDR can lead to reductions in depression severity similar to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), especially for patients with a history of trauma.

Anxiety Disorders:

  • EMDR research indicates positive outcomes for various anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and generalised anxiety disorder.

  • Studies have found that anxiety symptoms may decrease more quickly with EMDR compared to other therapies.

Other Conditions:

  • Besides mood and anxiety disorders, EMDR has shown potential in treating conditions like eating disorders, chronic pain, and substance abuse.

For example:

  1. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Extensive research supports the use of EMDR in treating PTSD. Multiple RCTs report that EMDR leads to significant reductions in PTSD symptoms, often resulting in remission of the diagnosis.

  2. Complex Trauma: Patients with complex trauma have also benefited from EMDR therapy. Studies suggest improvements in emotional regulation and attachment stability after treatment with EMDR.

  3. Performance Enhancement: Some research explores the use of EMDR for non-clinical purposes such as improving performance among athletes and business professionals.

Diverse Populations and Settings

Research on EMDR has included diverse groups of people, such as:

  • Children and Adolescents

  • Military Veterans

  • First Responders

  • Survivors of Abuse and Domestic Violence

These studies have been conducted in various settings, including private practice offices, hospitals, and community clinics.

Strength of Research

Critics may have concerns about certain studies' methods or possible biases, but many RCTs addressing these issues continue to support the effectiveness of EMDR. Ongoing research must address these criticisms through rigorous study design and transparent reporting practices.

Combining EMDR with Other Therapies

Current studies are also looking into how well EMDR can be combined with other therapeutic approaches. Early findings suggest that integrating EMDR with treatments like CBT could be helpful for certain conditions that commonly occur together.

Gaining Deeper Insights with Meta-Analyses

Meta-analyses play an important role in summarizing EMDR research by statistically analysing results from multiple studies. These comprehensive analyses contribute to a better understanding of where EMDR stands compared to other psychological treatments.

Considering EMDR Therapy as a Treatment Option

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy has gained recognition for its role in treating trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Yet, its application extends beyond these areas, particularly when addressing comorbid psychiatric disorders. Comorbidity refers to the presence of two or more disorders co-occurring in an individual, and it presents additional complexities in psychological treatment and management.

Integration with Other Therapeutic Approaches

EMDR therapy can be seamlessly integrated with various therapeutic modalities to address the multifaceted nature of comorbid psychiatric disorders. Here are ways through which EMDR can complement other treatments:

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT focuses on changing maladaptive thought patterns and behaviors. EMDR can enhance this process by targeting the emotional distress linked to traumatic memories that may underpin cognitive distortions.

2. Psychopharmacology

Medications may be used to manage symptoms of psychiatric disorders. EMDR can work alongside medication to address the emotional and psychological roots of distress, potentially leading to reduced reliance on pharmacotherapy.

3. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

In cases where emotion regulation is a concern, such as in Borderline Personality Disorder, DBT can provide clients with practical skills for managing emotions, while EMDR can process traumatic memories that may contribute to emotional dysregulation.

4. Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)

IPT aims at improving interpersonal relationships which are often strained in individuals with comorbid conditions. EMDR can help resolve past traumas that often impact current relationships.

Tailoring Treatment to Individual Needs

The integration of EMDR therapy into a treatment plan for comorbid psychiatric disorders requires careful consideration of each disorder's etiology and symptomatology. This individualised approach ensures that:

  1. Treatment is Phased: Given the complex nature of comorbidity, therapists may phase treatment, prioritizing stabilisationbefore processing traumatic memories with EMDR.

  2. Symptom Hierarchy is Addressed: Therapists often target the most disruptive symptoms first. For instance, if anxiety impedes daily functioning more than depressive symptoms, EMDR sessions might initially focus on anxiety-provoking memories.

  3. Safety is Prioritised: A thorough assessment ensures clients are adequately resourced to handle potential emotional upheaval during EMDR therapy.

Case Conceptualisationin Comorbidity

EMDR therapy requires nuanced case conceptualisation when dealing with multiple disorders:

  • Identifying Primary Traumatic Events: It is crucial to discern which traumatic experiences are contributing most significantly to current symptoms.

  • Mapping Interconnectedness: Understanding how different disorders interact and influence one another informs the sequencing and focus of therapeutic interventions.

  • Resource Development: Clients may need additional coping mechanisms before engaging in the reprocessing phases of EMDR.

Collaborative Approach

A collaborative approach between mental health professionals is essential when integrating EMDR into a broader treatment regimen for comorbid conditions:

  • Consultation among Therapists: Professionals should communicate about their respective roles and approaches to synchronize efforts effectively.

  • Client Involvement: The client's perspective on their healing journey guides the integration of various therapeutic methods alongside EMDR.

Ethical Considerations

Practitioners must adhere to ethical standards by ensuring they are adequately trained in both EMDR therapy and understanding comorbid conditions. They must also recognize the limits of their expertise and collaborate or refer as necessary.

Research Implications

Ongoing research continues to inform best practices for integrating EMDR within treatment plans for individuals with comorbid psychiatric disorders. Studies focusing on specific combinations of conditions will further refine these integrative strategies.

The Future of EMDR Research and Innovation in Therapy

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, a groundbreaking treatment for trauma-related disorders, continues to be an area ripe for exploration and innovation. While numerous studies validate its effectiveness, there are still critical areas awaiting further exploration in EMDR research.

Emerging Areas in EMDR Research

One key area of EMDR research that holds promise is the neurobiological underpinnings of the therapy. Understanding how the brain responds during and after EMDR therapy could provide valuable insights into refining the therapeutic process.

Another promising avenue is the application of EMDR therapy to childhood developmental trauma. While current research provides evidence for its effectiveness in adults with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), less is known about its efficacy in children who have experienced persistent developmental trauma.

Moreover, research focusing on how EMDR therapy can be personalised based on individual differences could be transformative. Factors such as genetic makeup, personality traits, and specific symptomatology could potentially affect how individuals respond to EMDR therapy.

Role of Technology in Advancing EMDR Therapy

Technology also plays a significant role in advancing EMDR therapy:

  1. Virtual Reality (VR): VR has shown potential in providing controlled environments where individuals can safely process traumatic experiences. This technological intervention facilitates the delivery of therapy while offering an immersive experience that may enhance therapeutic outcomes.

  2. Teletherapy Platforms: Teletherapy platforms hold promise, particularly when considering accessibility and convenience for clients unable to attend traditional face-to-face sessions. With advancements in secure video conferencing technology, providing effective remote EMDR sessions is now a plausible reality.

  3. Mobile Applications: The integration of mobile applications designed to support between-session activities could also enhance treatment outcomes. Apps could provide resources such as self-care tips, reminders for grounding techniques, or tools for tracking symptoms and progress over time.

The future of EMDR research holds exciting prospects, particularly with the integration of novel technologies. As we continue to learn more about this powerful therapeutic approach, it's evident that EMDR therapy will remain at the forefront of trauma-informed care.

Finding Healing Through EMDR Therapy

Healing from deep-seated trauma and psychological distress can feel overwhelming. But there is hope in the form of EMDR therapy. To make the most of this approach, it's essential to find an experienced EMDR therapist who can support you.

Tracey Brittain is a highly skilled EMDR practitioner who specializes in helping individuals with PTSD, anxiety disorders, depression, and other trauma-related conditions. You can learn more about her services at

Choosing a therapist like Tracey who has extensive experience in EMDR ensures that you'll receive expert guidance through the eight phases of therapy. Her knowledge and dedication to personalised care can make a significant difference as you navigate your healing journey.

It's important to remember that seeking therapy requires bravery. It's an empowering step towards regaining control of your life and prioritizing your mental well-being. EMDR therapy has been proven effective through numerous research studies, making it a viable option for many individuals.

Whether you're thinking about trying EMDR or considering it as an addition to your current treatment plan, don't hesitate to reach out to a professional. Take that crucial first step towards healing through EMDR therapy by visiting today.

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