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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a powerful psychotherapy treatment. This is a technique that has been highly effective in helping people deal with trauma, anxiety, panic, disturbing memories, post-traumatic stress, and many other debilitating emotional problems. 

Until fairly recently, conditions such as those listed above were difficult and time-intensive to treat. It’s the simplicity of this treatment and its ability to bring quick and lasting relief for most types of emotional distress, that has made EMDR deserving of being considered a ‘breakthrough’ therapy. 

Although EMDR therapy is best known for its effectiveness in treating trauma, many use this treatment to overcome other emotional impediments, enhance performance at work and optimize their living. 

Curious to find out more about how this therapy can help you improve your quality of life and enhance your mental health? In this article, we’ve asked clinical psychologist and EMDR specialist, Dr Matthew Woo, to walk us through this groundbreaking therapy.

What is EMDR treatment like and how does it work? 

EMDR therapy consists of multiple phases of treatment. In a typical session of EMDR, the counselor and client identify a negative belief or distressing event that contributes to present issues. 

In one part of the session, clients are asked to focus on thoughts or memories while simultaneously using his/her eyes to track and focus on the therapist’s hands as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision. These movements or other visual, auditory or tactile stimuli (such as taps or tones) occurring in a rhythmic left-right pattern are called bilateral stimulation. This bilateral stimulation activates both sides of the brain 

In a successful EMDR therapy, the meanings of painful events or thoughts that were once frozen in the memory network are able to be transformed on an emotional level. New associations and links are forged with these events and thoughts to free mental blockages. A successful EMDR therapy will also enhance attentional flexibility which allows the mind to be less ‘stuck’ on thoughts, memories or emotions that hinder performance or optimal daily living.

What is EMDR therapy useful for? 

EMDR was originally discovered to treat clients with a history of trauma and as a result, been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Over the years, however, EMDR has become integrated as a treatment for a whole range of clinical applications which include:

  • Phobias
  • Grief
  • Low self-esteem 
  • Panic disorder 
  • Depression 
  • Childhood abuse 
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder 
  • Sexual addiction/deviation
  • Anger 
  • Performance and test anxiety 
  • Marital relationship difficulties
  • Sleep disturbances and nightmares 
  • Dissociative Disorder or traits 
  • Negative body image 
  • Pathological gambling 
  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder 
  • Victims of crime, natural/manmade disasters, accident, surgery, burn, marital/sexual dysfunction and sexual assault 

How many sessions will I need? 

Depending on the context of the problem being dealt with, EMDR treatments can range from 4-6 sessions for a relatively straightforward recent single-episode trauma event, to multiple sessions for clients with dissociative disorders.  

During your initial consultation with a trained EMDR therapist, relevant factors will be considered to help you move forward with EMDR and advise on the number/frequency of sessions you might need.

EMDR beyond negative symptoms and memories: improving performance at work 

EMDR therapy isn’t limited to its ability to treat negative symptoms and memories. It can also be used to enhance performance at the workplace by helping clients in business, performing arts, creative arts, and sports to attain an extra edge in performance at work. 

EMDR to enhance work performance has the following objectives: 

  • To emphasize what is positive in the client’s existing repertoire, ultimately increasing their confidence in his or her ability to perform a task or reach a goal 
  • Reduce performance anxieties or reprocessing possible trauma from setbacks or perceived failures of past employment history by targeting negative thinking that gets in the way of performance
  • Encourage the brain to think in healthier and more adaptive ways by removing negative self-beliefs and helping the person tap into his or her strengths

Individuals who have experienced recent traumas related to their employment history, such as performance anxiety or difficult collegial relationships, can also expect good progress with EMDR to improve overall performance and experience at work. 

To book an appointment with Dr Matthew, please call +65 6250 1222 or drop us an email.


Dr Matthew Woo

Dr Matthew Woo is currently a principal consultant clinical psychologist and director of Riverlife Psychology. He was formerly in the employment of the Institute of Mental Health for 19 years, and held the position of Senior Principal Clinical Psychologist and Deputy Head of the Department of Psychology.

With more than 20 years of experience, Dr Matt can help you reach your goals and improve the quality of your life and relationships. He provides a safe space to explore issues and provides an expert's perspective on the sequences of behaviour and patterns at play in your life. If you tend to have a negative outlook, don't expect to become an optimist overnight. But with practice, eventually, your self-talk will contain less self-criticism and more self-acceptance. You may also become less critical of the world around you.