EMDR is a psychotherapy, or talk therapy, offered at Mates4Mates which can help veterans process upsetting memories, thoughts, and feelings related to their trauma.
EMDR stands for eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing, The underlying theory of EMDR is that many psychological difficulties are the result of distressing life experiences which have not been stored in the memory properly and are thought to be unprocessed or blocked.
EMDR can assist in appropriately processing these traumatic memories, subsequently reducing the symptoms that are experienced.
How does EMDR therapy work?
In EMDR therapy, you are asked to pay attention and follow an object with your eyes as it travels from side-to-side while thinking about the memory. One way of doing this is to follow the therapist’s finger as they move it back and forth in your line of vision.
The side-to-side motion is called bilateral stimulation which increases communication between the brain hemispheres and has been found to enhance memory processing. Bilateral stimulation can also be created using a simple machine that can create bilateral stimulation through lights, sounds or touch that can be followed by the client.
Research has indicated that this type of eye movement causes a decrease in arousal and negative emotions, an increase in episodic memory (a conscious memory of a previous experience), and retrieval and recognition of true information.
The benefits of EMDR for veterans
Veterans generally experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at higher rates than the general population. The main benefits of EMDR therapy are that it can help a veteran change the distressing feelings and negative beliefs that can arise as a result of traumatic memories.
Consequently, symptoms associated with psychological distress (i.e., nightmares, isolation, difficulties focusing, and less enjoyment of leisure activities) can be reduced and the veteran can start to feel like they did prior to the traumatic memory
While EMDR therapy was originally developed for PTSD, research is continuing to support its application to a range of other psychological issues that veterans can be impacted by, including:
- Chronic pain
- Complicated grief
- Panic attacks
EMDR therapy via telehealth appoints
Telehealth is an alternative method to engage in EMDR as part of therapy for those who might find it difficult to get to a Veteran & Family Wellbeing Centre or find an available psychologist in their area.
It can also help those who would prefer to access services from home due to physical or mental health conditions and can be a great starting point for therapy.
Bilateral stimulation via telehealth may look different (i.e. via touch rather than eye movement) but the process remains the same. There are extra safety protocols established for telehealth to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the client (i.e. discussions about what to do if connections drop out) but the research indicates similar results via telehealth when compared to face-to-face treatment.
Support at Mates4Mates
Mates4Mates psychologists are trained in a range of therapies proven to benefit veterans and family members who are experiencing mental health concerns.
Mates4Mates psychologists are available face-to-face in centres or via telehealth appointments with a doctor's referral, at no cost to the person.
If you’re a veteran or family member and want to find out more about how Mates4Mates can support your mental health, reach out to us on 1300 4 MATES (62 837) for a confidential chat.
Written by Tamsin Wallace, Mates4Mates Psychologist