O Little t’s, O Little t’sby Carroll Campion Prasad, Ed.S, LPC
When I was a little girl, the holidays were a real mixed bag. On the one hand my divorced parents, operative word being “divorced” otherwise known as guilt-ridden, went hog wild with gifts for me and my sister. However, then there was the other reality, you see, I came from a less than perfect family where both my mom and dad magnified all and every dysfunction known to man in order to create what they imagined to be the perfect Christmas. I would have titled it the “perfect nightmare,” but what do I know. When I‘ve talked with my friends about their memories of the holiday season many of them relay similar stories of well-intentioned “Freddie Kruger” movies.
I think most folks can tell at least one holiday tale about Uncle Louie passing out in the gravy or Aunt Mabel melting down in sobbing hysterics because the mashed potatoes were served cold. These little trips down memory lane can be, in EMDR terms, defined as “little t‘s”. A little t is short for a little trauma. Big T‘s or big traumas, unfortunately, also exist during this conflicted season of good cheer. Statistics indicate that there is an increased amount of anti-depressants prescribed to squelch what‘s commonly referred to as the “holiday blues” as well as an increase in the tragedy of suicide.
That said, it seems fitting to introduce the therapeutic modality of EMDR. EMDR is an acronym for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. EMDR is one of the most thoroughly researched forms of therapy ever used in the treatment of trauma and is indicated to be highly effective and efficient with both “small t‘s” as well as big ones. These bigger traumas are generally recognized as a cause for posttraumatic stress disorder.
In fact, much of the research EMDR is centered on involves studies with Vietnam Veterans, rape victims, and survivors of natural catastrophes such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes. However the creator of EMDR Francis Shapiro states, “experiences of all sorts play an important role in our inner life.” In other words, the memory of Aunt Mabel and the cold potatoes might cause you an emotional reaction today when triggered by a similar event or you may catch yourself feeling strongly about the experience today when retelling the tale. The truth is, sometimes events that seem insignificant at the time may have long lasting effects.
EMDR is a complex method of psychotherapy that integrates many of the successful elements of a range of therapeutic approaches with eye movements in ways that stimulate the brain‘s information processing system. Researchers contend that when a disturbing event occurs, it can get stuck in the nervous system with the original picture, sounds, thoughts, and feelings. EMDR seems to unlock the nervous system and allows the brain to process the experience.
After determining if one were a candidate for EMDR, a typical session would look something like this; the client is asked to recall a disturbing event. Once a picture, thought, or feeling about that event is present the client is asked to follow the therapist‘s fingers with their eyes open and usually in the direction of right to the left. The eye movement stimulates both sides of the brain, which begins to form a synapse between emotional and cognitive processing.
The key concept to remember is that throughout the entire session it is the client‘s own brain that will be doing the healing and that the client is the person in control. The client also determines the type of resolution, their emotional state, and the appropriate response. The process of EMDR is non-directive and no suggestions are made from the therapist during the process. Where as talk therapy tends to be a lengthy process, with EMDR clients have reported they met their therapeutic goals at a rapid rate. EMDR is an effective tool with both children and adults. Like any healing modality EMDR is not for everyone nor is it a cure-all however it is a well-researched, time-tested alternative or addition to talk therapy.
Carroll is a Licensed Professional Counselor and an EMDR Clinician currently in private practice in Annandale, Virginia. [At the time of publication, Carroll was in practice in Columbia, SC.] Her work with children, families, couples and individuals of all ages is based on supporting their strengths and abilities in order to help transform painful patterns of behavior into successful new ways of interacting. Contact Carroll: (803) 479-2587.
Published in the December 2002/January 2003 edition of AveNews Columbia, SC's Holistic World Ways Newspaper