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What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

When people seek psychological treatment, it often has less to do with them, and more to do with the things they have experienced. 

Our brains are always working to process our experiences. They try to extract all the good stuff; new lessons and skills and send them into long-term memory where we can use them in future scenarios. 


Properly processed memories feel like old stories; they're not overly distressing, they're balanced, and they're connected with all our other healthy, processed memories, contributing to our development of life skills, and a balanced perspective on ourselves and the world. 

But when an experience is too sudden or overwhelming - especially in a way that feels dangerous - our brains can have trouble processing it properly. The overwhelming memory can end up stuck in its own circuit; isolated and scattered, in its raw form. 


Unprocessed memories can be triggered and re-experienced in our bodies, over and over again, causing a range of disturbing symptoms, like flashbacks, nightmares and panic attacks.  

The brain might keep trying to process the memory by itself, but each time it tries, it gets too overwhelmed by intense emotions, to finish the job. 

EMDR is an evidence-based treatment that can help the brain desensitise, and process memories like these, once and for all. It helps to link them in with our wider network of already-processed memories, perspectives, and lessons, where they can be put into wider context and become useful. 


EMDR is different from other psychotherapies because it doesn't require you to talk. You don't need to rehash your trauma in detail, you don't need to analyse your thoughts, you don't even need to worry about whether you're doing it right or wrong - because there is no wrong way to do EMDR. 


It's all about supporting and unblocking your brain, so it can simply 'do its thing.' 


EMDR was initially developed to help people affected by trauma. However, many psychological conditions are underpinned by memories that were too overwhelming to be processed properly. Some of these conditions include eating disorders, anxiety disorders, depressive disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorders.  

Engaging in EMDR might be an emotional experience because the memories you work on may have been impacting your life for a long time. You may have gone to great lengths to avoid them, and the emotions attached to them. But those memories have still been there, affecting your life, even when you've avoided them. There may be places you don't want to go to, activities you're scared to do, or unhealthy coping mechanisms you haven't been able to change, all because these memories have remained unprocessed, under the surface. 

Clearing unprocessed memories is kind of like a storm. Imagine a big, heavy storm cloud. We might not enjoy rain, thunder, or lightning; but when they are happening, that cloud is releasing everything that was built up inside it. The more it releases, the lighter it gets, until there's nothing left but blue skies. 


EMDR works in a similar way. And if it helps, you won't be experiencing anything that wasn't in your brain already. 

Sometimes the quickest way out is through. 

If you decide to try EMDR with us, our trained practitioners will be able to keep the experience safe and relaxed for you, so that you won't become overwhelmed. 

Here's what to expect: 

  • When you first meet your psychologist, they will start by getting to know you and helping you to feel safe in the therapeutic environment. 

  • They will then begin to map out a treatment plan that matches your level of readiness for EMDR, while equipping you with specific skills that will help you throughout the process. 

  • Your psychologist will work with you, to identify possible targets for EMDR processing, which might include distressing memories and current situations that cause emotional distress, or relevant incidents from the past.

EMDR works at different rates for different people, depending on how many overwhelming experiences they have had in their lives, and how overwhelming those experiences have been. 


Generally, those who have experienced only one trauma, in adult life, can be successfully treated in under 5 hours.  Those who have experienced multiple traumas, beginning in childhood, may require a longer treatment time. In both cases, EMDR tends to work faster than other psychotherapies. 


It does take some bravery to go through EMDR, but we would argue, it takes even more bravery not to. 


If you have already gone through many years of life with unprocessed, traumatic memories; there's a pretty good chance you can handle EMDR - and unlike traumatic unprocessed memories, EMDR could make your life a lot better. 

Want to find out more?

To learn more or to enquire about our Anorexia support, contact us at:, or give us a call on (02) 9555 4810.

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