Tuesday, June 16, 2015

PTSD Treatment Options- EMDR

Courtesy of Sami Shannon

Hi there and welcome to another moment of the mania! I'm Ann Shannon, the manic writer. I blog about PTSD  and encouragement and write book reviews and romantic fiction. My passion is the military, soldiers, and veterans, especially those with PTSD. I love that you stopped by, grab a drink and make yourself at home. Leave a comment or find me on social media, I'd love to meet you and get to know you.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve covered the common treatments for PTSD, self-help, CBT and medication. I don’t mean to say these are the best or only treatments, but they are the typical ones, in my opinion. They are the infantry in the treatment army, the first to go in and fix things. Hey, infantry is important, they are the initial surveyors, they head in, get the lay of the land and report back to headquarters with their assessments. Without these important tools, we would be overwhelmed with ways to handle and heal PTSD.

Once someone with PTSD has been triaged though, and the initial threats have been handled, it is time to look for healing because so often someone who is struggling with PTSD doesn’t seek help until their life is falling apart. They have serious depression, or they’re trying to mend themselves with alcohol or drugs, or the worst of all, they’re considering suicide. It’s important to triage them and handle those initial problems, help them get back on their feet because you can’t heal someone who is still hiding from the trolls under their table.

Over the next few weeks, I want to talk about some of the methods that are used to heal PTSD because I believe there is healing available. Will you be the same man or woman you were before your trauma? Of course not. Life is about change, both the good and the bad, but you can find relief from the fear, anxiety, flashbacks and depression. You can heal your mind to some degree and live again.

I believe in you.

Please remember that I am a writer and researcher, my key role is to filter through the mountains of information available and bring the best of it to you. I do not and can not offer medical advice if you suspect that you or a loved one is dealing with PTSD please seek professional help immediately. If you are considering suicide, or you believe a loved one is considering it, please call for help now. As I've said before, we can't let the trolls win this battle and 1 suicide is 1 too many.

This week I’d like to talk about EMDR. Most of the therapies I’ve talked about before last week are common, you’ve probably heard about them and are familiar enough to at least give a simple description of them. And I’m willing to bet that when you read my blog post about Prolonged Exposure Therapy you hadn’t heard it called by that name, but it sounded familiar and made sense to you. The therapy I’m going to discuss today probably won’t snag any memory bytes at all, and it won’t make sense to you either but it has many studies and a record of being very effective. That’s why I’m here writing about it.

Natalia's Eye
Courtesy of flickr

EMDR is short for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It was discovered by Francine Shapiro in 1987 by chance. She realized that as she was walking her eye movement was helping her process some difficult thoughts she was having. She realized there was much more to her discovery though and devoted the next few years to studying what she had discovered and creating the therapy that is known today as EMDR.

Initially, it was received with skepticism but she forged ahead and encouraged clinicians to look into it. By 1995, the experimental skepticism had been dropped, there had been multiple studies confirming its effectiveness and it was accepted as a viable psychological treatment option (reference). In 1987, PTSD was a new diagnosis and there was little information or research on how to treat it. Some clinicians gave EMDR a chance and found that it worked very well.

So what is EMDR anyway? How does it work? What does it involve?

Trigger warning, this video has footage of Vietnam combat in it.

EMDR is an 8 phase treatment option but that doesn’t mean it is a long-term treatment option. In fact, you can be treated in just a few sessions depending on your symptoms and your reactions. In phase 1 the clinician will take a complete history, identifying and targeting memories for treatment. This will not require you reliving your trauma, you can simply say “I was attacked.” That’s enough. Phase 2 involves the clinician ensuring that the client can handle emotional stress. The client will be taught how to relieve their stress during and between sessions.

The real work begins in Phases 3-6. During these sessions, the clinician identifies a troubling thought process or memory and targets it in treatment working through it until it is no longer troubling for the client. This involves three steps, recalling a memory, understanding and identifying the negative belief that arose because of it and recognizing the related physical reactions to it. The clinician will then help the client associate a positive belief with that memory and move on.

The final phases, 7 and 8 involve the clinician guiding the client through closure, both between sessions and at the end of treatment. When both the clinician and client feel that treatment is complete they will discuss the progress they made and what the client can expect in the future.

That’s it, in a nutshell.

EMDR has been shown to be accepted and helpful in the treatment of trauma, serious loss, and PTSD. It has been studied and discussed widely. The NYTimes  did an article on it in 2014. More information on the research can be found here  and the theory for how and why it works can be read about here. It’s some pretty deep and scientific stuff so I felt like you were better off reading it yourself than having me botch it up trying to explain it.

I hope that you learned something here today. We don’t know all there is to know about how the brain and mind work. We don’t understand the process of making, keeping and processing memories, but we do know that they affect us. It seems that Dr. Shapiro stumbled upon a way to help us process the memories that seem to haunt us and it seems to work. If you think it might be an option for you, read about it, talk to your practitioner and look into it.

This Thursday, in conjunction with this post, I will be reviewing Francine Shapiro’s book Getting Past Your Past which discusses the discovery and development of EMDR and some of the ways it can be implemented. Come back and read the review, learn what I’ve learned.

It is my goal to end the stigma that comes with PTSD. I blog about PTSD once a week, searching the mountains of information out there and bringing you the best of what I find. I review a book on PTSD every other week and I publish a weekly encouraging reflection and tweet encouraging quotes for PTSD survivors daily, follow me to be encouraged. Together we can make a difference.

When I'm not blogging about PTSD or trying to encourage those of you living with it. I'm an author. I write romance. I just finished my first book and I am revising and editing it. With any luck, it will be published later this year, in the meantime you can get a sample of my work on the web. Original work can be found here, and fanfiction can be found here. Let me know what you think, and tell me how you found me!

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