EMDR for PTSD
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, originally coined by Dr. Francine Shapiro Ph.D. She had been recalling her own traumatic event while taking a walk, and realized that when her eye movements went from side-to-side that the feelings and “pull” of that event lessened noticeably. She then decided to investigate the dynamics further and developed an 8 stage approach to EMDR. To summarize the patient is creates a safe place in their imagination for retreat if any trauma is found to be overwhelming during the session. Once this has been established the patient is brought back to the negative memories while they watch a light move from side to side. After each movement session, the client reevaluates to see if the positive cognition (a preferred alternate to the same situation) is true. When the client is satisfied that the positive cognition is true and the negative is not, the session is “installed” in the body through the client scanning their body and attend to any physical discomfort.
Does EMDR Work?
This processes then was studied several times by Dr. Shapiro and several other researchers. Even critics of the method still agree that there is a positive response, it is more a matter of whether eye movements are central to the therapeutic effects. The evidence for the work is handily summarized in a Q&A with Dr. Shapiro and the New York Times readers. Some believe that desensitization was the key dynamic, while others claim that the eye movements are analogous to R.E.M. sleep eye movements and this is how trauma is processed. These studies have been supported by the American Psychiatric Association (for example for rape) as well as the Department of Defense for soldiers returning from war.
Having done a lot of work on myself, medically, psychologically and with nutrition, I felt that whatever was slowing down my progress must be subsconscious. I asked my therapist if she knew anyone trained in other types of techniques such as hypnosis and found she was trained by Dr. Shapiro. So we did our own sessions, I ended up needing only 5 sessions for me to process what I was consciously aware of. It was highly successful, and as a result I was able to move onto another level of self discovery entirely positive.
More than Eyes
Since the original discovery of EMDR, it has been found that the same effect can be had by using sound or touch on both sides of the body. So while advancement is not dependent on eyes, it seems that the bilaterality is the key. It appears that the bilaterality is a method of creating new flows that bypass the “stuck feeling” in the psyche and allow resolutions
Brainspotting, a book by David Grand is a technique that extends that found in EMDR . The author used EMDR to address most of his trauma, but could not find a way to resolve it completely. He realized that there was a location in an individual’s visual field that could be identified by patterns in eye movement when the patient looked in that direction and rested there. These signify unresolved processes that are held in the brain, very much like one can hold trauma in the body. The patient is guided to attend to this location and be with the trauma, then observe and watch the dynamics change as one follows the changes. The brain is now able to process the trauma so it loses its hold and now becomes a memory.
Bothe EMDR and Brainspotting are thought to be efficient ways to address trauma that is held in the brain. They each require a lot less time that talk therapy and seem to have evidence to back up their efficacy. If you decide to try it, please let us know how you did!