Counseling Technique Spotlight: EMDR

By Fran Dinehart, LCSW
Social Worker & Case Manager

One of my counseling clients came for treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  A friend drowned during a recent beach trip and since then she had panic attacks around large bodies of water. I took her history, identified her stressors, and together we created a targeting sequence plan based on Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing Therapy or EMDR. Over the course of several sessions, we used a device called a ‘Tapper’, which consists of buzzers that provide tactile stimulation which you hold in your hands and headphones for tonal noises. The bilateral stimulation created by the tapper helps desensitize traumatic memories using guided visualization. Once she was able to access these memories while calm, we focused on instilling positive thoughts. In her case, it was the belief that she could remain calm around large bodies of water. Now she is startled by the initial approach to an ocean, lake, or river, but has developed the tools to calm herself down quickly and remain calm.

EMDR is a manualized treatment protocol that I was trained on in 2016.  It is a relatively recent therapeutic modality, developed in the 1990s by Francine Shapiro. EMDR therapy facilitates the accessing and processing of traumatic memories and other adverse life experience to bring these to an adaptive resolution.  During EMDR therapy the client attends to emotionally disturbing material in brief sequential doses while simultaneously focusing on an external stimulus. Eye movement, tactile, and audio stimulation are all used to form new associations between the traumatic memory and more adaptive memories or information.  EMDR therapy uses a three-pronged protocol:

 

  • Past events that have laid the groundwork for dysfunction are processed, forging new associative links with adaptive information,
  • Current circumstances that trigger anxiety, depression or other unwanted emotional responses are targeted
  • Imaginal templates of future events are incorporated as the client visualizes themselves handling possibly triggering events with ease and comfort.

 

Interested in counseling? JFS is here for you and your loved ones. To schedule an appointment, call (504) 831-8475.