Eye Movement Desensitisation Movement Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is one of only two treatments recommended as first line treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by the World Health Organisation – the other being trauma-focussed cognitive-behavioural therapy (t-CBT). Dr Chris Coleiro is trained and experienced in both of these approaches – though EMDR is generally more popular with his clients.

This is because traditional CBT treatments for PTSD involve “replaying” traumatic memories over and over – both during and in between sessions. This is effective for treating symptoms of PTSD because the distress generated by the memories does indeed lessen over time. However, many clients prefer an EMDR approach because the approach is often more efficient, and does not involve a repetitive process of replaying the memory over and over.

Instead, EMDR involves the client bringing into awareness thoughts, feelings, and sensations associated with traumatic memories whilst moving their eyes rapidly. The therapist guides the client through sets of about 30 – 60 seconds where the client follows the movements of the therapists fingers with their eyes. This produces a naturally occurring pattern of electrical activity in the brain, which causes the stored trauma memory to change – typically becoming less intense. The exact mechanisms in the brain which cause the memory to change have not yet been discovered, but the regions of the brain involved with sensory storage, emotional activation and reasoning all become more active, with changed patterns of nerve cell firing.

More research has demonstrated the effectiveness and efficiency of EMDR in resolving trauma compared to any other treatment, including t-CBT and medication. This has led to EMDR becoming a widely used psychological treatment for PTSD.

Although the use of EMDR is widespread, not all clients are suitable. Some clients need additional assistance in developing skills for managing and reducing emotional arousal before any EMDR is undertaken. Dr Coleiro will conduct an assessment with you to determine your appropriateness for EMDR and make recommendations for how to proceed if EMDR is not deemed suitable.