A handful of years ago I had a client that was working on anger management issues. He was a military veteran struggling with issues related to trauma. Together we decided to refer to my colleague who did EMDR treatment and give it a try. After a few sessions, my client came back awe-struck and told me, “I can’t believe it!” Something had really changed.
I believe in talk therapy. Processing disturbing events and feelings in one’s life in an atmosphere that is safe and understanding can be extremely helpful. Yet this client (who I had been talking with for quite some time) quickly experienced a profound shift in his perception and feelings about an event that had troubled him for years. The clinician hardly knew him, but was skilled in a protocol, a treatment technology, which helped my client move beyond his trauma. The treatment is EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing.
EMDR treatment brings hope to many. It is a physiologically based therapy that helps a person see disturbing material in a new and less distressing way. It has a direct effect on the way that the brain processes information. We still remember what happened, but it is less upsetting.
One of the advantages of this treatment is that it doesn’t require the client to review the details of the event(s) that happened to them. Clients can disclose the details of their trauma, but it is not a requirement.
I tell clients that we are “reprocessing the aftermath”. We’re going to review their perceptions of the event, not necessarily review the event itself. It’s like watching a movie, and then going out with friends afterward to talk about it. With EMDR we are not attempting to re-watch (or re-experience) the movie, but re-process a conversation about the movie.
When a person is suffering due to trauma, their brain cannot process information as it does ordinarily. A moment or event can become frozen in time, and remembering that trauma can feel just as bad as going through it the first time. It is as if the images, sounds, smells, and feelings haven’t changed even though time has passed. Such memories have a lasting negative effect that interferes with the way a person sees the world and the way they relate to other people in their lives.
The experience with my client was one instance that led me to become trained in EMDR. Since then, I have used this modality with at least fifty cases. Whether my client was experiencing trauma from the military, childhood abuse, sexual assault, or emotions from some other type of loss, EMDR has been helpful and profound.
– – –
Al Heystek, MA, LPC, MDiv
Al is a Licensed Professional Counselor who has worked professionally with men’s issues since 1994. He has been a therapist with the Men’s Resource Center at Fountain Hill since 2002. Prior to that Al worked for OAR, Inc. in Holland, Michigan as a therapist in both outpatient and residential men’s chemical dependency programs. Al also worked for Gateway Foundation, an Outpatient Treatment center in Chicago and prior to that was on a ministerial team for 10 years in an urban ministry in Chicago. Al is also an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. learn more…
– – –