Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing, (EMDR) is recognized as a powerful and effective form of trauma treatment worldwide and in North America by the American Psychiatric Association, the US Department of Veteran Affairs and Department of Defense, the UK Department of Health and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies amongst many other international health and government agencies. Approximately 20 controlled studies have investigated the effects of EMDR and consistently found that it effectively decreases/eliminates the symptoms of post traumatic stress for the majority of clients. Improvements are often reported in other associated symptoms like anxiety and depression.


When can EMDR help?

As well as treating PTSD, EMDR is also an effective treatment for the following:

  • Panic attacks Eating disorders
  • Complicated grief and loss Anxiety and Depression
  • Phobias Performance anxiety
  • Addictions Sexual, physical and emotional abuse
  • Pain Preparation or recovery from surgery
  • Dissociative disorders Stress management

How Does EMDR Work?

EMDR is a comprehensive treatment process that integrates many different psychotherapy approaches like cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness and body centered therapies. It seems to work by having a direct effect on how the brain processes information. The way the brain stores information about a traumatic event is different from how it stores information about an ordinary event. EMDR seems to offer the brain and central nervous system another chance to re-file this information in a more functional way so that intrusive memories, feelings, thoughts/beliefs and physical sensations no longer intrude when we are triggered to remember aspects of the experience. Essentially, EMDR helps the brain re-file and the body and digest the disturbing event so that it becomes just a memory that is no longer disturbing to our nervous system. The alarm switch in the brain, the amygdala is re-set back to neutral again.

What does an EMDR session look like?

The EMDR therapist works with the client to identify a specific problem or issue that the client wants to focus on and assesses how this issue is disrupting the client’s life in the present. There are typically 8 phases that guide the treatment process in a structured format which include preparing the client to address the issues right through to imagining how they will be functioning differently in their life following reprocessing the event/issue. The therapist uses some form of dual attention stimulation like eye movement, tactile or auditory to create a relaxed and whole brain state for the client while they attend to the disturbing material associated with the event/issue. During the 8 phases the therapist has prepared the client with resources that help reprocess intense emotions so that the client does not become overwhelmed or re-traumatised during treatment.

How long does EMDR treatment take?

The therapist will take one or more sessions to work with the client to determine if EMDR is an appropriate treatment. If so then treatment can begin with the history taking, preparation and assessment phases of EMDR. This is where the therapist gets to know more about the issues, events, experiences that are interfering with how the client would like his or her life to be working better. The therapist is also gathering information about the client’s early life which is often where early traumatic experiences give rise to hard-wired reactions to stress and trauma later in life. These are referred to as touchstone memories and become targets for EMDR re-processing along with current triggers. The type of issue, current triggers and amount of previous trauma will determine how many sessions are required. Before the re-processing phase begins time is also spent helping the client become re-acquainted with their own internal and external resources which they can use during and between sessions. It is very common for clients to report immediate relief of symptoms after just one session of EMDR.

When is EMDR not an appropriate treatment?

The following circumstances usually require other interventions first before EMDR can be considered:

  • Suicidal clients
  • Clients in a manic stage of a Bi-Polar episode
  • Clients suffering from a major depressive episode that is not being treated with medication
  • Clients using alcohol or drugs at the time of a session
What is Equine Guided Therapy >>
Transform Trauma into Trust

Gillian Ashley-Martz can help transform your trauma into trust through Equine Assisted EMDR (EAEMDR). EAEMDR is an emerging field of EMDR recently approved by the International Association of EMDR, (EMDRIA). Gillian is the first EMDR practitioner in Canada to be trained in this new protocol which combines the principles and practices of Equine Guided Therapy with the 8 phases of EMDR therapy.