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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Finding the Energy to Heal: How EMDR, Hypnosis, TFT, Imagery, and Body-Focused Therapy Can Help Resolve Health Problems by Maggie Phillips (Norton Professional Books: Norton) A groundbreaking book that applies the principles of energy psychology and medicine to mind/body healing. Eastern healing focuses on correcting imbalance so that qi (life force energy) can flow freely again. Using vivid examples, this book explores the possibility that psychological methods can be used in a similar way to address subtle energies in mindbody systems and thereby restore health.

The author has presented highly regarded seminars on Ericksonian and clinical hypnosis, imagery, and ego‑state therapy. Here she adds EMDR, thought field therapy (TFT), and body­focused therapy to open inner healing pathways that have been frozen by stress, past trauma, and developmental conflicts. Throughout the book she emphasizes the principles of gathering and building on strengths that each client already owns, using tools that provoke energetic flow to dissolve barriers to health, and selecting strategies that utilize the powerful effects of positive expectancy.

In the first four sections, vivid, intriguing stories illustrate how EMDR, hypnosis, imagery, TFT, and body‑focused therapy can be used to solve the mysteries of health crises triggered by general stresses and anxiety, posttraumatic stress, and the challenges of organic conditions such as cancer, head injury, arthritis, and cardiac disease. The final section presents three creative models for combining and integrating energy therapies to increase healing possibilities for individuals with complex health situations that do not respond to any one approach.

Finding the Energy to Heal is an especially useful guide for professionals interested in cutting­edge methodology as well as for readers seeking solutions to perplexing health challenges.

All in all Finding the Energy to Heal is a creative breakthrough. Phillips explains concepts like Positive Image Installation, or Positive Target Image, Conflict Free Image, Resource Interweave, Ego State Therapy during EMDR without Hypnosis, Re-nurturing Interweaves, Developmental Learning Interweaves, concepts and procedures related to the Safe Place and Safe Place Image, Temporal Resource Interweave, and many concepts and resources which I had not heard of before and can really be very useful to any EMDR clinician. She uses and explains EMDR in a very creative way that can be very beneficial to EMDR therapists and clinicians. The sections on Hypnosis, TFT, Imagery, Somatic Energy Therapies, and the one of Integration of Concepts have great utitlity.


In the mid 1980s, Francine Shapiro reported that while walking in a park, she became aware of a decrease in emotional pain connected to some disturbing thoughts she had been having. Serendipitously she noticed that her eyes had been moving back and forth while this was happening. She then brought up some additional disturbing memories and purposefully moved her eyes back and forth. Once again she noticed a marked decrease in the level of upset associated with these previously painful memories.

Recognizing the potential benefit of this discovery, she conducted her initial research on EMDR with 22 traumatized individuals. Her results suggested that EMDR could reduce the pain associated with traumatic memories. In addition to the desensitization that occurred, EMDR produced a shift in the individual's evaluation of self from negatively held beliefs (I am weak; I am worthless; I deserve to be hurt) to a more realistic, more balanced view of oneself (I did the best I could; I am lovable; I am still a good person even if I make mistakes; I am safe now).

The initial results and claims made by Shapiro (1989; 2001) aroused a storm of controversy that persists to this day. Critics questioned the claims she made, the data she reported, and the use of eye movements as part of a therapeutic method. While Shapiro's initial research had several methodological limitations, more methodologically sound replications of her work have generally supported the positive results she obtained. Today, EMDR is one of the fastest growing methods of psychological treatment with more than 65,000 clinicians trained worldwide. Its primary use is for the treatment of trauma and post‑traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but, as will be discussed later, it has been successfully used to help clients with a wide variety of other problems, such as phobias, anxiety, and performance difficulties.

Consistent with many psychological therapies, EMDR assumes that most problems arise from faulty learning. In EMDR, however, the concept of learning is defined very broadly. Learning is viewed as a process that is not only cognitive, but sensory, affective, and physiological as well. This more holistic view of learning and information processing is one of the factors that distinguish EMDR from many other therapies.

Another factor that differentiates EMDR from other approaches is its emphasis on the positive as well as the negative. Most conventional psychotherapies, like traditional Western medicine, focus on identifying and treating pathology. This focus on pathology can sometimes eclipse the client's strengths, emphasizing instead his or her weaknesses. Such an emphasis may be particularly ill advised in the case of trauma, in which individuals may already feel helpless and out of touch with the very internal resources and strengths they need in order to recover.

As noted, EMDR is designed to target change on multiple levels: cognitive, emotional, and physical. In this respect it differs from many clinical approaches that assume that change in one area‑thoughts, feelings, behaviors, or body sensations‑will produce change in the others. Thus, analytic theory assumes that a working through of transference in analytic treatment will ultimately lead to a shift in the way the client functions in the world. Cognitive therapists assume that challenging and changing the client's irrational negative cognitions will produce significant changes in the way the client feels and acts. Practitioners of energy therapies assume that unblocking the flow of energy or chi should be the major focus of treatment and will produce significant improvement in other areas.

In contrast, EMDR begins with the assumption that the best approach to change is an integrative one. In keeping with the increasing recognition of the body‑mind connection in Western medicine and in the mental health community, EMDR synthesizes and draws from many branches of psychological theory and treatment.

Another fundamental assumption of EMDR treatment is that human beings have an emotional healing system comparable to the body's immune system. Often, this system is adequate to process the small hurts and splinters of life. Sometimes, however, the wounds are so large or so deep that the person's ability to recover is overwhelmed. When this happens, the body, or mind, is unable to repair the wound on its own. In the case of psychological trauma, what appears to occur is that material is stored in the nervous system in an unprocessed, state‑specific form. The individual may or may not be consciously aware of its presence until it is triggered either by internal (dreams, feelings, thoughts, body sensations) or external (sounds, smells, images, movement) stimuli. Once triggered. the individual may reexperience many or all of the thoughts, feelings, or body sensations that were present during the initial trauma. This retraumatization can occur repeatedly and without warning. Try as they may, individuals often cannot "get over" what has happened, cannot reconstitute their former sense of psychological health. In these cases, EMDR often enables clients to recover by activating and boosting their own emotional healing system.

A final underlying assumption of EMDR is that significant change can take place at a much more rapid rate than previous therapeutic models would suggest. Research and clinical experience suggest that information processing, using EMDR, can occur at an accelerated rate. Conceptually, this makes sense, for if the EMDR process involves connecting information from one

neural network in the brain to another, how long need that take? If a client has the intellectual information that he or she is safe now and EMDR helps connect that information to an emotional network in another part of the brain, is it not possible that relief may occur rapidly? In the case of a single event trauma, sometimes as little as three sessions are needed to desensitize and reprocess the event

In summary, EMDR is a therapeutic modality that follows the basic principles of many therapies, including the importance of establishing a good relationship with the client, taking a thorough history, and developing agreed‑upon goals. Like many other therapies, EMDR assumes that most problems are based on faulty or painful leaning. It differs, however, in the holistic view of learning, the provision of unique, alternating stimulation, and the way it seeks to incorporate these features into the treatment approach.

To change dysfunctional beliefs and reduce irrational fears, EMDR accesses both intellectual and emotional informational networks. This is accomplished by having clients bring up the visual, cognitive, emotional, and physiological aspects of a problem or memory, as well as alternative adaptive cognitions. It then adds a new element, usually therapist‑led rapid eye movements, alternating hand taps, or aural stimulation, which accelerates the processing of information.

Several factors appear to increase the effectiveness of EMDR: a caring and supportive therapeutic relationship; complete accessing of painful material including images, negative thoughts, feelings, and body sensations; and the provision of some type of alternating stimulation mentioned earlier. But basically we do not know why EMDR works. Some have speculated that the eye movements might produce a REM‑like phenomenon. Others suggest that the alternating stimulation might serve to weaken the strength of the conditioned response as described in Pavlov's (1927-1960) classical conditioning model. Changes in brain response have been reported post-EMDR treatment. Why this occurred, however, is still unknown.

Light in the Heart of Darkness: EMDR and the Treatment of War and Terrorism Survivors by Steven M. Silver, Susan Rogers (W.W. Norton) real-world guide to the practice of EMDR in various trauma settings. Drawing upon many years of personal experience and that of numerous peers from across the world, the authors show EMDR as applied to a wide range of traumatic settings, including school violence, "near-war" experiences, refugees, combat soldiers, children, and emergency service workers.
Discusses how new developments in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) can be successfully applied to the treatment of war and terrorism trauma. Addresses issues confronted by clinicians and therapists.

The effects of war and terrorism can be long‑lasting and discreet, emerging years later in different forms of psychological and physical strain in the body. In this groundbreaking work, Steven Silver and Susan Rogers uncover how new developments in Eye Movement Desensitization and Repro­cessing (EMDR) can be successfully applied to the treatment of war and terrorism trauma. They address issues confronted by all clinicians attempting to respond to this particular type of trauma‑the psychological aftermath of man's inhumanity to man.

Drawing on many years of personal experience, the authors focus on the application of EMDR to clients' traumatic experiences, covering a wide range of traumatic settings and survivors from school violence to "near‑war" experiences, refu­gees, combat soldiers, children, and emergency service workers. They provide a comprehensive review of the research on the use of EMDR, specific case studies to demonstrate their results as well as general suggestions for integrating EMDR into the therapeutic process, and information on various humanitarian relief efforts throughout the world in which both authors have participated and how to get involved in them.

The authoritative guide to the application of EMDR to war and terrorism trauma, Light in the Heart of Darkness provides an invaluable tool for all therapists looking to integrate these innovative approaches into their practices. Offering one of the most thorough overviews of EMDR treatment, this book can also be used as a general reference for all practitioners looking to broaden their under­standing and care of trauma patients.

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