Breaking down psychological treatments: EMDR

01 December 2022

A highly effective therapy for veterans with PTSD is EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing therapy, which can help process memories related to trauma and provide relief from PTSD symptoms.

At Mates4Mates, we understand just how challenging it can be to overcome injury and trauma. Using a range of evidence-based therapies, the team is here to support you when you need it most. 

EMDR explained 

Veterans generally experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at higher rates than the general population. Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy was initially developed in 1987 specifically for the treatment of PTSD. 

EMDR is a psychotherapy, or talk therapy, which can help veterans process upsetting memories, thoughts, and feelings related to the trauma.  

The theory underlying 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.   

In EMDR 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 is to follow the therapist’s finger as they move it from side to side 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, and retrieval and recognition of true information. 

The benefits of EMDR for veterans 

The main benefits of EMDR 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: 

  • anxiety     
  • chronic pain 
  • complicated grief 
  • depression 
  • panic attacks 

Reaching out for support 

EMDR is just one of various forms of psychological, evidence-based treatment that Mates4Mates provide. 

If you’re a veteran or family member and want to find out more about seeing a psychologist at Mates4Mates, reach out to us on 1300 4 MATES for a confidential chat. 

To book an appointment, you will need a Medicare or DVA referral from your GP. You do not need to be an inducted Mate to access psychological services. 

Alternatively, talk to a trusted General Practitioner about your health concerns or for 24-hour crisis-support phone Open Arms on 1800 011 046. If it’s an emergency, phone 000. 

Written by Tamsin Wallace, Mates4Mates Psychologist

  • Current serving
  • Veterans
  • Mental health

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