EMDR therapy Perth

Everything you need to know about EMDR therapy


What is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR (or Eye-Movement De-sensitisation Reprocessing) is a type of therapy where you briefly focus on a traumatic memory or fear, while engaging in a process called bilateral stimulation.

Bilateral stimulation typically involves following the therapist’s fingers. In addition, sounds, tapping and other movements can be used to create a rhythmic left-right pattern. The back-and-forth movement or alternating sounds, stimulates both sides of your brain, helping it to process disturbing material.

EMDR is a non-traditional form of psychological therapy that was developed in the late 1980s. American psychologist Dr Francine Shapiro discovered that eye movements can reduce the intensity of disturbing memories.

The bilateral stimulation and the process in which it is used is what sets EMDR apart from other therapies

During an EMDR session, we work with you to identify a specific problem as a focus for that treatment session. You then call to mind the disturbing issue or event: what was seen, felt, heard, and thought? Meanwhile, you follow the therapist’s fingers with your eyes; or other types of bilateral stimulation.

Dr. Tarmala Caple

Psychologist Perth

Bilateral stimulation such as eye movements are used until your traumatic memory becomes less disturbing. The movements are then associated with a positive thought and belief about yourself.

It is important to understand how our memory works, particularly with traumatic events.
Memories are made up of a number of different aspects such as images, thoughts, interpretations, language, emotions, physical sensations and sensory information. At the end of each day, our brain files away the events that occurred. The information is stored as memories, just like putting files away in a filing cabinet.

Sometimes though, when an event is disturbing, the brain does not file it away properly, and some of the aspects stay active. This is a survival mechanism that the brain uses to keep us alert to danger. If a memory is not filed away, triggers such as sights, sounds, smells, thoughts or sensations can easily make it feel as if the event were happening again.

EMDR supports your brain’s natural healing process by helping you file the memory properly, in the right filing cabinet.

What to expect?

EMDR therapy creates a relaxation effect, reduces the vividness of images and emotions associated with a traumatic memory, and helps file the memory away in your brain so that it becomes just a memory, rather than something that is still distressing or intrusive.

When we experience a disturbing event, the memory can become stuck or frozen in time in our brains. Reminders such as images, sounds and smells can easily trigger these memories. And remembering the event can then feel just as distressing as the original event.

Dr. Tarmala Caple

Psychologist Perth

EMDR helps these memories become unstuck so they can be stored away as a past event and are no longer re-triggered. The memory itself won’t disappear, it just no longer feels upsetting or as disturbing when there is a trigger.

Due to its effectiveness, EMDR therapy is recommended for the treatment of PTSD and trauma by professional bodies such as:

  • The World Health Organisation
  • International Society for Traumatic Stress
  • Phoenix Australia – Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health
  • The Australian Psychological Society.

The Expert Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Emergency Service Workers recommends that all emergency service workers suffering from PTSD should be offered either trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or EMDR.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense have jointly issued clinical practice guidelines recommending EMDR for the treatment of PTSD in both military and non-military populations.


Why is EMDR so effective?

Compared to other therapies, you don’t have to discuss disturbing memories in detail with your psychologist.

That’s why EMDR is particularly useful for people who have trouble talking about the traumatic events they have experienced. Many trauma therapies require people to talk about what happened over and over again, and in significant detail.

Dr. Tarmala Caple

Psychologist Perth

Although talking about traumatic events is effective, it can be highly distressing and it often leads to people dropping out of therapy early. EMDR avoids that by taking this one obstacle away.

EMDR therapist Perth

Who is it for?

Originally designed to treat trauma memories, EMDR can be used for a wide range of issues.
Ongoing research supports the use of EMDR as a helpful treatment for

  • anxiety,
  • depression,
  • OCD,
  • chronic pain,
  • addictions,
  • performance anxiety,
  • phobias,
  • stress,
  • complicated grief,
  • other distressing life experiences.

You will need to undergo an assessment to determine if you are suitable for EMDR.


Some people may need additional support to help them develop coping skills prior to undergoing the active trauma re-processing stage.

Dr. Tarmala Caple

Psychologist Perth

Another important aspect of suitability for EMDR is that you need the willingness to keep an open mind to the use of bilateral stimulation as it can seem odd at first.

How many EMDR sessions will I need?

The number of sessions you need depends on your individual circumstances and the nature of what is being treated. Some people may only require a few sessions while others require multiple sessions over an extended period of time.

EMDR involves 8 phases:

  1. History taking and treatment planning:  to gain an understanding of the situations and memories that are causing distress, present triggers and desired future goals. EMDR focuses on the past, present and future.
  2. Preparation and education: an in-depth explanation is provided on what to expect, how EMDR works and coping skills are taught to help with emotional distress when memories are triggered and with hyperarousal symptoms associated with anxiety and PTSD.
  3. Assessment: a target memory is selected and related components such as an image, beliefs, emotions and body sensations are identified
  4. Desensitisation: this is the part where the memory is activated and reprocessed with bilateral stimulation.
  5. Installation: once the memory is no longer causing distress and there is a sense of distance, the negative belief that one holds about themself due to the event is replaced with a more helpful, positive belief.
  6. Body Scan: any residual bodily sensations associated with the memory are processed and positive sensations are enhanced.
  7. Closure of the session: the session is debriefed and strategies for use between sessions are discussed.
  8. Re-evaluation: at the beginning of the next session, the memory and any symptoms/ experiences since the last session are reviewed, and decisions are made about further re-processing of the memory or moving on to other targets.

EMDR involves more than just the use of bilateral stimulation. We start with history-taking and the development of a treatment plan. Education and preparation for the desensitisation phase are also important parts of the therapy. Some people require more support to prepare them for trauma processing than others.

Dr. Tarmala Caple

Psychologist Perth

Many people report feeling better after their first session, but EMDR can lead to the experience of other, sometimes intense feelings in the short term.

While EMDR is an effective approach to treatment, there can be an increase in distress during the session and for a few days afterwards. Some people report:

  • an increase in distressing memories,
  • heightened emotions or physical sensations during sessions,
  • light-headedness,
  • feelings of tiredness,
  • vivid dreams or nightmares,
  • triggering of other distressing memories

Not everyone experiences these effects, but if they do occur you will be provided with practical strategies to help you cope. This is why it is important to undergo EMDR with a well-trained mental health professional. If the memory is too distressing, well-trained EMDR therapists have ways to adapt the re-processing stage of the therapy to reduce the level of distress.

Not all people who offer EMDR therapy are trained mental health professionals. EMDR is a part of a complete therapy approach, and if someone is not a trained mental health professional, they may not have a good understanding of the issue being treated and the cautions that need to be applied.

Dr. Tarmala Caple

Psychologist Perth

There are different levels of training available and it is important to choose someone with advanced training, who practices EMDR regularly and is familiar with using EMDR for the issue being treated.

EMDR is growing in popularity, here in Perth and around the world. Prince Harry had EMDR to help him deal with the trauma of his mother’s death. He demonstrated the technique in the Apple TV+ docuseries The Me You Can’t See. In this demonstration, tapping was used instead of eye movements.

Sandra Bullock used EMDR therapy to help her cope after a stalker broke into her home in 2014.

Do you believe EMDR may be a good treatment option for you? Sessions last between 60 and 90 mins, book an assessment with our receptionist so we can determine what best fits your needs. Here at our Perth practice, two of our practitioners are trained to offer EMDR therapy. We have short waiting lists for new appointments and we pride ourselves in giving the best service we can.

Dr Tarmala Caple, The Wellbeing Psychologist

I’ve spent over 20 years helping people live life to their full potential and have extensive experience in supporting individuals’ manage general psychological issues, overcome challenges and setbacks, and improve their life.

We’re committed to building a friendly and collaborative relationship with people so they feel understood and supported. We use an individualised approach to suit your preferences, personality, and lifestyle.

Our motto is “working together to find what works for you”.

Dr Tarmala Caple

Not sure which session to book? Send us an enquiry and we’ll be in touch!