This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Books and Methods Review - Methods - EMDR


What is EMDR?

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.  This is a great therapy for people with PTSD (some therapists even say it works for Oppositional Defiant Disorder, but this requires special training for the therapist).  My daughter and I have both used EMDR.  It can be very fast for a single event – like a rape, it usually only takes one or two sessions (obviously for Complex PTSD it takes much longer). You don’t even have to talk about the event(s) if you don’t want to. You do HAVE to have a therapist who specializes in EMDR, trauma, and working with kids. 

Here is the explanation I copied from EMDRIA.ORG:

EMDR seems to have a direct effect on the way that the brain processes information. Normal information processing is resumed, so following a successful EMDR session, a person no longer relives the images, sounds, and feelings when the event is brought to mind. You still remember what happened, but it is less upsetting. Many types of
therapy have similar goals. However, EMDR appears to be similar to what occurs naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Therefore, EMDR can be thought of as a physiologically based therapy that helps a person see disturbing material in a new and less distressing way.

When I explain it to clients, I tell them that possibly EMDR is mimicking the bilateral eye movement that occurs in REM sleep (studies indicate that REM sleep plays a key role in memory consolidation.) However, traumatic memories do not get processed in the typical way. Instead of getting fuzzier over time as most memories do, traumatic
memories stay vivid. EMDR helps to move the traumatic memory into the typical processing thus allowing the memory to "soften" in its recollection.

Marythemom:  I have no idea why it works, but I would describe it as distracting your brain from physically re-experiencing the trauma so you can process the event without feeling like you are reliving it.  During a flashback you usually experience rapid heart rate, fear and adrenaline – just as though you’d gone back and were reliving the event – definitely something you would normally avoid.  During therapy, the therapist alternately taps on your hands (or other part of your body like your upper arms) or gives you something that simulates a tap on either side of your body (we use Theratappers which has paddles that alternately vibrate that you can hold in your hand or stick under your thighs).  The therapist can aide you in talking about the traumatic event or you can just visualize the event in your head while you tap. 

Your body does not re-experience the trauma anymore, so you don’t have to fear triggers or the trauma itself.  This allows you to process the event, including accessing the irrational beliefs.  You don’t forget the event.  You just don’t relive it anymore.

Warning:  This doesn’t appear to work as well with younger kids.  It can also open some areas your child may not be ready to process yet.  We tried it one Summer and my daughter could not handle it emotionally.  I will admit thought that this may have been my fault because I took the lead on the therapy (stupid on my part!), and wouldn’t let my daughter dissociate when things got too upsetting for her, but instead kept dragging her back to focus on what we were talking about.  With her many years of trauma, I guess I was impatient looking at how many years of therapy we had ahead of us.  Another reason to have a good experienced EMDR therapist not a therapeutic mom!  When we tried EMDR again a couple of years later it went better.  I’ve also used it to help with my own PTSD and issues.

Finding an EMDR therapist
EMDR International Association
EMDR therapist network

Another person's experience with EMDR

Some more resources:

Books resources
Attachment-Focused EMDR: Healing Relational Trauma - Integrating the latest in attachment theory and research into the use of EMDR.  Much has been written about trauma and neglect and the damage they do to the developing brain. But little has been written or researched about the potential to heal these attachment wounds and address the damage sustained from neglect or poor parenting in early childhood. This book presents a therapy that focuses on precisely these areas. Laurel Parnell, leader and innovator in the field of eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), offers us a way to embrace two often separate worlds of knowing: the science of early attachment relationships and the practice of healing within an EMDR framework. This beautifully written and clinically practical book combines attachment theory, one of the most dynamic theoretical areas in psychotherapy today, with EMDR to teach therapists a new way of healing clients with relational trauma and attachment deficits.

Children books
Butterfly Hugs
Getting Out the Icky's

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mary! Thanks for the post on EMDR! EMDR is such an amazing tool for kids, parents, adults, anyone. I have seen EMDR work beautifully with tiny kids, but it really varies on the situation.