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EMDR is a therapy effective for treating autistics, adults, children, for “little t” trauma also known as complex trauma (C-PTSD; ICD-11) and trauma (PTSD). Victoria is a qualified EMDR therapist.

Exploring New Avenues in Treating Anxiety and Trauma: EMDR Therapy

Recent studies shed light on more effective approaches to address anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), particularly in cases involving childhood trauma. Among these methods, Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy emerges as a noteworthy contender, recognised by Medicare and showing promise in alleviating distressing memories.

Understanding the need for impactful treatments for children grappling with trauma becomes paramount to prevent long-term adverse effects. EMDR, which surfaced in the late 1980s, has gained traction for aiding both adults and children in navigating traumatic experiences. This therapy involves multiple stages, initially guiding clients to explore the roots of their distress. Subsequently, they engage in bilateral movements, like tracking the therapist’s hand motions, while revisiting the traumatic memory to replace it with positive beliefs.

The effectiveness of EMDR draws from various theories. Some propose that eye movements trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, inducing a calmer state, while another theory revolves around disrupting working memory to make it more amenable to change.

Comparing EMDR with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) for trauma in children reveals similarities in reducing emotional distress, depression, anxiety, and behavioural issues. However, EMDR typically requires fewer sessions, usually around six to twelve, offering a potentially more efficient treatment pathway.

Traditional trauma therapies often involve exposure techniques wherein patients confront distressing memories or situations. While effective, this method may not address every incident and could pose challenges in determining the right time to initiate therapy.

Despite EMDR’s promise, its implementation necessitates trained and qualified therapists. Research on its efficacy compared to other exposure therapies remains inconclusive, though its outcomes align with those therapies lacking eye movement elements.

In the realm of trauma therapy for children, addressing self-perception concerning the traumatic event holds immense significance. Children distancing themselves from the trauma may resort to coping mechanisms involving shame and self-suppression, potentially leading to behavioural issues.

Rebuilding a child’s self-perception and aiding them in managing intense emotions within secure relationships remains pivotal. Additionally, supporting parents to enhance their well-being contributes significantly to their child’s recovery journey.

While EMDR displays promise in treating trauma in children, ongoing research and larger sample sizes are imperative for a comprehensive understanding of its efficacy. The quest for improved treatments for anxiety and trauma remains an evolving journey, with EMDR standing as a beacon of hope in this landscape.


Fisher, N., van Diest, C., Leoni, M., & Spain, D. (2023). Using EMDR with autistic individuals: A Delphi survey with EMDR therapists. Autism27(1), 43-53.

Fisher, N., Patel, H., van Diest, C., & Spain, D. (2022). Using eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) with autistic individuals: A qualitative interview study with EMDR therapists. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice95(4), 1071-1089.

Lempertz D, Vasileva M, Brandstetter L, Bering R, Metzner F. Short-term eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy to treat children with posttraumatic stress symptoms after single trauma: A case series. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 2023;28(2):450-464. doi:10.1177/13591045221082395

Le Roux, I.H., Cobham, V.E. Psychological Interventions for Children Experiencing PTSD After Exposure to a Natural Disaster: A Scoping Review. Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev 25, 249–282 (2022).

Phelps AJ, Lethbridge R, Brennan S, et al. (2022). Australian guidelines for the prevention and treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder: Updates in the third edition. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. 56(3):230-247. doi:10.1177/00048674211041917

van Diest, C., Leoni, M., Fisher, N., & Spain, D. (2022). Using EMDR With Autistic Clients: How Do Therapists Adapt?. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research16(3), 123-134. doi:10.1891/EMDR-2022-0014



Not yet publicly available, but research soon to be published:

Darker-Smith, S. & Clarke, A. (in press). Neurodiversity-Affirming EMDR Therapy with Autism and ADHD. In D. Farrell, S. Schubert & M. Kiernan (Eds). The Oxford Handbook of EMDR. Oxford University Press.

Darker-Smith, S. & Clarke, A. (in press). Coping with “difference”: Neurodiversity-affirming EMDR therapy for Autistic and ADHD clients with eating disorders. In Trauma-Informed Approaches to Eating Disorders (2nd ed). A. Seubert & P Virdi (Eds). Springer Publishing Company.