Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

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EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a therapeutic approach that combines several other methodologies including psycho dynamic, cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal, experiential, and body-centered therapies. The approach seeks to help the patient understand past events and overcome the negative aspects of these events, as well as begin to understand current triggers in their life.

The treatment involves having the patient focus on an image in their mind about a past event, as well as a negative thought about themselves. The patient is also instructed to focus on a positive belief as well. Once the patient is focused on a memory they are told to follow the therapist's finger for 20-30 seconds, as the therapist moves their finger across the patient's field of vision. All the patient needs to do is allow whatever happens happen. The main point is to let any thought arise. These technique is designed to help the patient connect with their unconscious mind. (Source)

This approach may be effective in helping a TMS patient overcome traumatic past events that trigger their symptoms. It may be easy to recognize what triggers one's symptoms, but it is more difficult to overcome these triggers, especially if are rooted in very traumatic events. Dr. Howard Schubiner wrote in a blog post about TMS triggers, that one therapeutic technique to overcome TMS triggers is EMDR.

There are 8 phases to any EMDR treatment. The treatment has become standardized and should be administered only by licensed professionals. The 8 phases are:

  • Phase 1, Client History: Here the clinician gains understanding of past traumatic events that may be affecting the patient. By gaining knowledge about past events the clinician is able to ascertain if EMDR is the correct treatment and how to tailor the treatment to the respective client.
  • Phase 2, Preparation: This phase involves the clinician explaining the process to the client and providing them with adequate information to proceed with the treatment. Also, in this phase the client is given the skills to allow them to successfully complete the therapy.
  • Phase 3, Assessment: At this point the patient will identify a specific traumatic event to use in the treatment. Then several tests are done to identify what emotions the patient has connected to the event, along with the level of disturbance the event has caused. Lastly during this phase the patient is asked to locate what part of their body is physical stimulated when thinking and focusing on the event.
  • Phase 4, Desensitization: In this stage the patient is to focus on the event while experiencing bilateral stimulation, usually this involves following the therapist's finger across your field of vision. During this time the patient is to recognize and allow whatever thoughts and feelings to occur.
  • Phase 5, Installation: Here the patient is asked to again experience the bilateral stimulation, however this time they are to focus on the traumatic event along with a positive thought or feeling.
  • Phase 6, Body Scan: Again the patient is to focus on the traumatic event and a positive thought or feeling, but instead of experiencing bilateral stimulation, the patient scans their body and identifies any tension or bodily discomfort.
  • Phase 7, Closure: This basically entails stabilizing the client through a series of techniques that help the client cool down from the processing. However some processing may still occur after this phase.
  • Phase 8, Reevaluation: Here the clinician investigates the effectiveness of the treatment and identifies the level of tension in the client, along with seeing if there are any new issues that may have come up.

TMS Wiki member and therapist Michelle Gottlieb wrote the following about EMDR:

The other day, a client of mine was ready to work on the gastritis attacks she kept having. I asked her when the first one she had was. She remembered that it was the night before a major presentation she had to do for a job that she hated. So, we began to do EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), a powerful trauma therapy. For an hour and half we processed the trauma that made her choose that profession. When she came back the next week, she reported that she had not had any gastritis attacks at all even though she had been under stress!

Now all the readers of this Wiki page will not be surprised that treating the underlying trauma made such a significant difference in her illness. But the way we worked together may be new to you. EMDR was discovered 20 years ago by Dr. Francine Shapiro who very methodically and scientifically realized that bilateral stimulation to the brain helps to reduce trauma and its aftermath. She worked with Vietnam Vets who had severe PTSD. After being treated with EMDR, they no longer had PTSD.

I have been doing EMDR for 9 years and am constantly amazed by how it can help people. EMDR appears to allow the brain to take the trauma that has not been stored effectively and allow it to hook up with adaptive information. Therefore, as Dr. Sarno would say, the brain no longer needs to be distracted from the trauma. It can be processed and the physical sensations are reduced or completely eradicated. Often in one session.

This can be done even if you do not have a specific trauma that appears to be connected to the pain. I had one client who woke up one morning paralyzed. Even though she got most of her movement back, she remained in a great deal of pain and had to stop working at a job she loved. As we started to work together, I had her focus on the pain while we did EMDR. Within 20 minutes, her pain was down to a zero and she had more range of motion than she had had in years! Her pain level remained at a three or lower as long as her stress level was managed. Her pain had been at a 6 or higher for 8 years!

EMDR can quickly and thoroughly deal with the issues that are underlying your TMS symptoms. Different therapies work for different people so don't stop using the techniques that are helping you now. But look at adding EMDR to your arsenal and get your life back!

TMS Wiki Member Bandit1314 wrote

For more information of a psychotherapy approach that deals with emotional traumas (both repressed and consciously known) that have not been properly processed and "categorized", one should look into the fully accepted therapy method of EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing)... "Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a form of psychotherapy that was developed to resolve symptoms resulting from disturbing and unresolved life experiences. It uses a structured approach to address past, present, and future aspects of disturbing memories... its research support is primarily for disorders stemming from distressing life experiences... " For those interested I would recommend an initial brush up on EMDR in Wiki and then to check out some of the better books on EMDR through Amazon (look for the starred reviews however one of the top EMDR books out there supposedly is "Emotional Healing at Warp Speed: The Power of EMDR" by Dr. David Grand) IMO, a merging of TMS with EMDR would have a synergestic effect of increasing the effectiveness of the resulting hybrid 100-fold better than either alone!

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