For First Time Visitors

If you are a first time visitor to this blog, I invite you to start from the beginning, especially if you are unfamiliar with the potential emotional impact of long-term child abuse.

Trigger caution to unhealed survivors!

Understanding the Incomprehensible

Children of incest or long-term sexual abuse grow up to be wounded adults with complicated emotional issues. Unfortunately, some symptoms are misinterpreted or often dismissed as "crazy", only serving to maintain a tormented victim status. We, as a society, have the power to change this dynamic. Each of us can make a difference.

Nov 15, 2008

EMDR for healing?

Apparently many survivors are aware of EMDR these days. The initials don't really reflect what it's about but you can read more if you like on the process. The main thing to know is it can be an effective adjunct to talk therapy. The premise is that the technique allows you to engage both sides of your brain to process distress. Typically, people use only one half of their brain at a time to process information (logic vs. emotional). Several techniques can be used with EMDR to facilitate the thinking process which can help get through distressing memories more quickly.

Holding simple buzzing oval shaped objects in your hands is one way and my preferred way. You designate the comfortable speed and intensity. The latter part of my healing was greatly helped by EMDR. As a therapist, the first training I got was in EMDR. I learned quickly that children like the buzzers to be at the highest setting...which just makes a stronger feeling in the hand. It is not electroshock! Think of holding a tiny ball that vibrates very gently up to something that feels like your whole hand is vibrating. It's only vibration.

Another choice is a headset where both ears are engaged in hearing sound. New devices allow for you to be listening to a favorite CD during the process as opposed to tones. The original method is for your eyes to follow the therapist's hand as it moves back and forth in front of the eyes. A light bar is used by some therapists so your eyes just follow the bar instead of a hand.

The preference as to technique will differ by what the therapist offers and what feels most comfortable to you. I personally only offered the hand buzzers because I believe that most with DID would find lights triggering; and my doing the hand movements felt like I was too much in my clients' space. We have those trust issues, you know...

I had several clients who preferred I tap alternately on the backs of their hands rather than use the buzzers. I had children who stuck each buzzer in the side of their shoes :-) EMDR has been approved to treat PTSD in veterans. It is excellent for processing distressing events in a person's past and/or PTSD.

For someone with DID, EMDR can be a little tricky. I have had a client's specific alter engage in EMDR or I ask the host client to have a particular alter join with them to process a specific distressing trigger. EMDR has the potential of causing memories to surface. As long as the client is informed and makes his/her own choices for proceeding, it is safe, when the therapist is well trained to deal with any unexpected trauma that might surface during the process. That never happened for me or for any client where we targeted a specific memory or trigger. In other words, what was targeted was the focus of the work.

However, I did have a client greatly distressed by a recurring dream. She appeared very well adjusted otherwise. After advising her that, even though she stated she had no childhood trauma, if, in fact, there had been trauma unknown to her, it might surface. She was confident and trusted me to guide her through it but vehemently denied that was in her past. Less than 10 minutes into our first session of EMDR, a child self remembered being molested by an uncle. Actually, during my client's entire memory processing, only the one child aspect came forward. She was dissociated for her abuse but not DID. It also doesn't matter. Treatment is the same.

Because of my abuse memories, I feared EMDR. It looked too much like something scary. When I was finally ready to try, I chose the buzzers. The first time I used it, it helped a memory to surface quickly and be processed quickly. I didn't want to process anything brewing without EMDR from that point on. I'm now at a place where I will request EMDR for some sensations or emerging details of memories. Other times I prefer to be talked into a state of relaxation and check inside.

It is not really known why engaging both sides of the brain (called entrainment) helps to process, but it does. Before knowing of EMDR, I sought out ways to induce a state of calm. I was led to drumming. Any drumming would work but I chose African drums, specifically the djembe. That led me to a world of drumming circles and amazing energy as well as drumming at home. I purchased a book relative to healing through drumming. It explained the phenomena of people in drumming circles eventually going into a calmed trance-like state because of the entrainment of the brain surrounding the vibrations and other sounds. It is very much like self-EMDR in that using both hands alternately establishes the mind to be at peace. Aside from helping to process specific thoughts through a specific protocol with a trained therapist in EMDR, entrainment of the mind is beneficial for calming of the senses.

Entrainment can also be accomplished with some calming music. I have a CD for Relaxation and one for Sleep that has music designed to engage both sides of the brain and enhance the brain waves that promote calm. More than anything else, survivors need every possible technique at their disposal to allow the mind to be calm.


Lana said...

Interesting that you posted this subject now. I was going to ask you about it the other day. My dr started with the EMDR on the 3rd session, and it really freaked me out. It was like things were popping all over my brain, not fun! I couldn't function for the next 2 days, then felt really depressed/distressed for another 5 days after that, and couldn't bring myself to make another appt for a full month. After that she tried some different stuff with me, then we did EMDR a few times and it was ok... then we tried again a couple of weeks ago and it flipped me out again. Waves of feelings, images, fragments of conversations or arguments, suicidal impulses, depression, etc. Awful. I canceled all remaining appts. Can't handle that much chaos and misery. Now I'm calmed down again but really leary about the EMDR. Maybe I'm too unstable for it? It feels like it pushes me too fast and I lose my balance. I need to keep it together to work and take care of kids. Can't have this out of control thing happening :(

Secret Shadows said...

Thanks for writing this post on EMDR. My therapist and I are getting to a point in my therapy where she feels we are ready to try it. She is an EMDR consultant and specializes in trauma and dissociation. She doesn't do EMDR with DID clients until they reach a "certain" point in their therapy. We are getting there, but she says we will not try until at least January. Doesn't want to mess with the holiday times.

One thing I wonder about is how does it feel? What is it really like? (from the perspective of one doing it-client perspective) Does it feel scary? Does it feel very emotional? Or balanced? What was it like the first time you tried it? What did you notice the days following?

My 12 year old daughter did EMDR with her therapist. She had been in the hospital at age 4 with pnuemonia and was really traumatized by all the shots, IV, etc. needed to help her. She had a screaming abreactive episode when she had to get shots at her 12 year check up which is the first shots outside of the hospital setting. It was painful to watch, especially for me. So I talked to her therapist about it, and she suggested EMDR to which my daughter eagerly agreed. It helped a lot. My daughter no longer gets triggered into anxiety attacks when I clean my glasses with the clothes that have alcohol on them. SHe used to HATE them. She also talks about the experience differently which much more perspective and understanding. She has to get another immunization next year. I'll be crossing my fingers...
Secret Shadows

Anonymous said...

I have just started heavy duty emdr at a clinic in the LA area - today was bad - combined with a memory from childhood and my own spouse's verbal abuse and bullying at home it all became too much and I fled. I will try again but today scared me something fierce but I know if I can start again the EMDR is the key to unlock the trauma and let the healing memories be laid down in their place. But what if the therapy locks me into a cycle of trauma again today I had to go to bed after! Anyone who can help with message of hope thank you!

Grace said...

I hope understanding the healing process of trauma will help you as you move forward, even when it feels like backwards. EMDR is a faster way to move through trauma memories. But it still has an emotional kickback. Your mind and body still need to process what was uncovered during your EMDR session.

EMDR, for me, was exhausting. I never planned anything for the rest of the day when I knew I was going to do EMDR. Factor in recuperation time and don't view it as a setback--just part of the process. There's no easy way through the trauma. All the steps still need to happen which involves settling in of new internal discoveries and any alters involved in the trauma.

It could take a few hours or a few days...sometimes more. Then you go after the next thing. Self care is your greatest friend doing this work. EMDR therapists are very good at installing those messages to help you. Hope this helps you to feel more confident!