Monday, March 7, 2016

In Grief: Using Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

[Reviewed and updated May 30, 2023]

A reader writes: Thank you for being here for me these last 23 months. I am grateful for your support and advice. Reading your answers is always a relief. I feel stuck and hurt and as time goes by the feeling of loneliness becomes stronger as more and more I understand the meaning and importance of my other half. I feel like half a person without my beloved. He was my other half, my everything, the center and my reason for living. Trying to get some help and after trying different counseling, I went back to the one I'd started with, since I'd been with him the longest and I hoped maybe he understands my suffering. He suggested a new therapy called E M D R.
I could not really understand why or how it works. Have you heard anything about it? That is my question. I need your support for tomorrow I am facing another difficult day. I wish you were closer to give me a hug.

My response:
I’m so pleased to learn that you decided to return to the therapist with whom you feel more comfortable and better understood, and I think his suggestion to try EMDR is a wonderful idea!

EMDR (which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a biofeedback technique discovered and developed in the 1980s by an American psychologist, and now recognized as an effective method for removing or significantly reducing the emotional distress associated with trauma. The theory behind this approach is based on the observation that during rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep, when the eyes quickly go back and forth, the brain is able to make associations and process information more quickly than during normal waking hours. Imitating REMs in the waking hours is believed to activate the same sort of speedy processing and associative leaps that were previously only attainable during dream states. Many scientifically controlled studies support the effectiveness of EMDR, not only in the treatment of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), but also in the treatment of grief and mourning.

I do think it's important that your therapist is carefully trained and certified in this technique, and you have every right to ask if he is using EMDR according to the training standards and guidelines of the EMDR International Association

That said,  Here is a brief description of how EMDR works, via YouTube:

When you see your therapist tomorrow, I hope you will feel my arms wrapped around you, embracing you in long, warm hugs. Know too that you carry with you always my strongest encouragement and support. 

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