Quick fixes, Band-Aids and EMDR…
When we receive referrals from the medical community of clients struggling with anxiety or panic disorder, one of the most common requests we get is for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. It’s highly popular — though I doubt if the majority of those who refer for such have any idea what they are suggesting.
EMDR is an attempt to reduce the distressing impact of memory. The essential steps of this treatment include using guided imagery to get into a relaxed, near-trance state, recalling the memory in short bursts (still maintaining the high relaxation) and tracking a light with the eyes (or experiencing taps on the knees or hands) while trying to tie the traumatic memory to positive thoughts. This is repeated through multiple sets addressing each new response elicited by the previous set until the positive thought is firmly attached to the memory – at which point the patient is pronounced, “Cured.”
What it really is?
It’s a form of desensitization where repeated exposure causes a memory to, for now, become less threatening and it’s a means of linking the memory to such a strange environment that it, hopefully, will become less connected to daily life and no longer be triggered by such.
Does it work?
Short answer, it’s better then nothing at all – but just barely. The general consensus from most credible research is that it works no better then simply exposing the person to what they fear. Most studies find that any benefit the person experienced can be replicated by simply talking the person through the same steps of recalling the memory without the flashing lights etc.
And, it doesn’t stick. It usually takes less then half a dozen questions before the paper thin wall created by EMDR comes crashing down and the full force of the problem is there for all to see.
Do we use it?
While we usually do need to start the work with our anxiety & panic counselling clients by helping them to manage the symptoms of the disorder, that can never be considered a cure. It’s just a means of giving the person enough control to be able to focus on fixing the real problem.
What it means to really go to work on fixing Anxiety & Panic Disorder? There’s an entire page on that here.
We heal hearts and minds here – it’s just not about Band-Aids and quick-fix solutions that make you dependant on a therapist for life. Once you know how to heal your own heart, you own that forever.