What is EMDR?
We know disturbing and traumatic life events can impact on health, relationships, and how we see the world and ourselves. Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a specialist therapy that helps children and adults recover from trauma. EMDR therapy recognises that trauma can take many forms, including inter-personal trauma such as violence, sexual abuse, bullying and rejection; experiences of marginalisation, racism, homophobia and other prejudice; large scale events such as war, dislocation, and loss of culture; and painful experiences such illness, grief and loss. It was initially developed in 1990 in the USA, and since then has been used widely around the world. In 2013 the World Health Organisation recommended EMDR in the treatment for children and adults suffering post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The name EMDR refers to the use of eye movement that is part of the therapy process. The EMDR therapist asks the client to follow his/her fingers as s/he moves them back and forth. But other kinds of bilateral stimulation are also used, such as tapping, or sounds.
How does it work?
EMDR harnesses the brain’s natural healing power to process disturbing memories. The brain has an amazing capacity for working through painful and troubling events, and for working out what is important to remember and what to leave behind. But when an experience is traumatic, it can overwhelm these natural processes in the brain. Traumatic memories can get stuck and isolated. When that happens it is like the brain never gets new information that the event is over; and the person can get stuck in thoughts of self blame, inadequacy or powerlessness. When this happens, the person relives the experience, or fragments of it, over and over. Reminders of the trauma, like images, thoughts, body sensations, or even emotions, can trigger a response as though the traumatic event is happening again. We don't know exactly how EDMR works, but it is thought that the eye movements act a bit like REM sleep that occurs in dreaming, and is a natural way the brain sorts things out.
EMDR follows a careful, structured process that begins by using a number of strategies to help the client feel calm. With these strategies and the therapists guidance, the client is helped to visit the memory, and eye movements or other bilateral stimulation are used to help the brain process the memory. It doesn't take the memory away, but it helps the brain know that it is in the past, and not happening now. It also allows new, adaptive information to be noticed, that reduces the painful beliefs and feelings associated wit the trauma. Feelings of guilt, fear, self loathing, inadequacy or responsibility can be left behind, as the person processes the memory.
EMDR therapy with children
EMDR was initially developed for adults. However, when innovative child therapists discovered its value, they quickly adapted it to be used with children. Children's experiences of trauma can be different from adults, because they are dependent on adults for survival, and their brains are still developing rapidly. We know that trauma can impact on this development, particularly if the trauma is prolonged. If a child is stuck in a fear based response, the brain finds it almost impossible to concentrate on important tasks like learning new things. Children often have difficulty concentrating at school; some get into trouble for being disruptive, others go unnoticed or are seen as "day dreaming".
We use play, games, and other child friendly and developmentally appropriate ways to help children feel safe and benefit from EMDR. Many children also enjoy the help of our therapy dog, Momo. He can help children feel relaxed when we visit their scary memories and feelings, and they often enjoy helping him learn new things. EMDR therapy with children and adolescents is very effective and helps healing occur early, so they can get on with being kids. If your child is afraid of dogs, let us know..
EMDR therapy is based on a well-researched protocol. But it is much more than a series of technical steps. There are many innovations that make EMDR a creative and adaptive model of therapy. We are committed to keeping up to date with current innovations and research and include many creative adaptations with children and adults. Dr Jenny Dwyer has trained in a number of specialist EMDR approaches such as:
- Early Intervention following a traumatic experience - early intervention may prevent complications that can arise from traumatic experiences
- Group EMDR treatment - Group approaches can be used with families, communities, work colleagues or others who have experienced a similar trauma such as natural disaster, family violence, terrorism or community based violence, and other trauma effecting a group of people
- EMDR-Sand tray therapy - is a creative and innovative approach that assists children and adults to deal with painful and traumatic experiences that may be difficult to talk about
- Animal Assisted Therapy - we have developed an approach that incorporates our friendly therapy dog into EMDR therapy
Dr Jenny Dwyer is accredited by EMDR International Association (EMDRIA) and EMDR Association of Australia (EMDRAA) as an Approved Consultant and Certified Therapist in EMDR.
Jenny can provide individual or group consultation for EMDR practitioners, located in our office in East Melbourne, by internet, or delivered to organisations in their own settings.
Training and workshops
A series of workshops are currently under development. In 2018 we will be launching Basic training in EMDR. Watch our Training page for upcoming training for 2018.
Tailor-made workshops can be developed to meet the needs of specialist organisations or teams.
International workshops and Events
We bring you national and international experts to promote innovative, practical and evidence based developments in EMDR. See our Events page for details
- In 2018 we are delighted to bring you Ana Gomez.
Jenny Dwyer Associates is committed to bringing EMDR to the public sector so all children and families can benefit.
We support organisations and teams to introduce EMDR, develop standards and clinical governance processes, and build confidence in staff in utilising EMDR with their clients.
We assist with basic training, consultation and resources, as well as advanced training and skill development with children and adults