EMDR Specialist Liberal KS
Mental Health Professional, Osteopath (DO), Physical Therapist
Psychiatry, Child Psychiatry
Clinical Neuropsychological Assessment, Forensic Evaluation (e.g., mental competency evaluation), Child Custody Evaluation, Behavioral Health Intervention involving Medical Conditions/Disorder
Doctoral Program: University of Nevada - Reno
Credentialed Since: 1988-06-13
Life Beyond Trauma
By Ramona Morris
Flames licked at the top of the building, and adrenaline coursed through his veins. Joe Rumson∗ was a firefighter in training. The heat made him sweat, the gear weighed him down but, he reminded himself, it was a practice run, not the real deal. But then, something went horribly wrong. The fire raged out of control and took the lives of some of his fellow firemen. Joe got out alive but couldn’t shake the feeling that he was somehow responsible for their deaths.
Flashbacks of the fire haunted him every day—debilitating nightmares, panic attacks, and pain from physical injuries that had already healed overwhelmed him. And he found it impossible to return to work.
“He couldn’t go into enclosed spaces outside of his own home—like a shopping mall—without feeling like he was going to die,” says Nancy Smyth, PhD, LCSW, the psychologist who later treated Joe for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Yet after a few sessions of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (better known as EMDR), all of his symptoms disappeared—for good. He returned to work, fully functional: a miraculous recovery.
The eyes have it
Francine Shapiro, MD, discovered EMDR quite by accident. In the late 1980s she realized that when she moved her eyes a certain way, negative feelings associated with particularly disturbing memories diminished. She performed some promising experiments, case studies followed, and soon a new technique was born. The EMDR International Association estimates that more than 2 million people have now benefited from the therapy.
For many, the EMDR process sounds, well, a tad wacky. “I usually start by acknowledging that it does sound pretty strange,” says Smyth, who has used EMDR in her practice for 11 years. During sessions, patients are asked to recall painful memories—or to pay attention to a powerful feeling they’re experiencing that may or may not be attached to a memory—while following their therapist’s fingers back and forth, or listening to alternating tones in headphones.
Whatever the stimulus, says Smyth, EMDR activates both sides of the brain. The therapist encourages the patient to simply notice—without reacting to—whatever comes up. “It’s like mindfulness,” she explains. “You just let your mind and body go and follow the chain of associations.” Patients report back to the therapist—briefly, during short breaks—what they are feeling.
The result? “EMDR assists the body-mind to process traumas that have essentially been blocked off behind a psychological wall,” says Amy Thompson, MA, a psychotherapist and founder of the Koru Institute in Denver. When you’re in crisis mode, you activate a different part of your brain than when you’re just doing the laundry. The crisis memory gets stored into an emotionally loaded part of the brain, rather than a logical and analytical one. It’s why patients often feel they are reliving the trauma exactly as it originally happened (even after years have passed) without ...
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