Published on April 27, 2022
Alive’s Grief Center recently started offering Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), a therapy to alleviate traumatic memories. To better meet the demand for this specialty, Alive is now offering the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Group Traumatic Episode Protocol (G-TEP) in its Therapy Group for Complex Grief.
EMDR is an evidence-based therapeutic model that stimulates the brain and nervous system’s natural ability to heal. When a person experiences trauma and enters freeze, fight, or flight mode, the body stores images and sensations that hold onto that trauma. EMDR helps release it by accessing the memory in small doses while stimulating both hemispheres of the brain (often with eye movement, bilateral sounds, or the use of bilateral TheraTappers). Research indicates three sessions can be enough to begin to provide relief.
What happens in the EMDR G-TEP therapy session?
Groups of 5-6 meet remotely via Zoom and are led by Alive Hospice’s EMDRIA Certified EMDR Clinician and Grief Counselor Carla Archuletta LPC/MHSP, NCC. Privacy is maintained, and participants do not discuss the trauma they are working with inside these groups.
Instead, they learn stabilization and grounding skills, individually process the trauma through guided instruction incorporating eye movement, identify past and present “good memories,” access positive resources, and share positive experiences with the group.
The safety of the group is paramount. Clients share inner resources and thoughts with one another without sharing any personal details of the original trauma. The pre-screening and group guidelines foster a safe, respectful and private environment.
Who Should Participate?
G-TEP works very well for small groups including couples, families, and those impacted by the same traumatic event. For example, it has been used with survivors of man-made and natural disasters, as well as individuals coping with physical illnesses, and many others, including the loss of loved ones.
Pre-screening is required. Alive uses a trauma questionnaire and phone screening to determine who can benefit the most from this therapy. Participants must be physically located within the state of Tennessee.
Q. What is EMDR? How does it work?
A. EMDR accesses traumatic memories in small doses so the client can reprocess and desensitize the trauma. It stimulates both hemispheres of the brain (often with eye movement, bilateral sounds, or the
use of bilateral TheraTappers). When a person experiences trauma and enters freeze, fight, or flight mode, the body stores images and sensations that hold onto that trauma. EMDR is one of the fastest ways to release it. Research indicates three sessions can be enough to begin to provide relief. Learn more in this video.
Q. How effective is EMDR at Healing trauma?
A. EMDR is recognized as an effective trauma treatment by the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization, and the Department of Defense. Several studies have shown how effective it can be. A study funded by Kaiser Permanent found that 100% of the single-trauma victims and 77% of multiple trauma victims were no longer diagnosed with PTSD after only six 50-minute sessions. In another, 77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD in 12 sessions. (Source: EMDR.com)
Q. How does this relate to grief from the loss of a loved one?
A. When the threat of illness comes, it triggers our body’s evolutionary response, almost as if a saber-toothed tiger has jumped out of the woods, and we automatically activate survival mode. There is no time to process and the amygdala, that reptilian part of the brain, takes over putting the body into freeze, fight, or flight mode to survive and ward off the threat. This part of the brain doesn’t distinguish between past and present, and every time it is triggered the trauma comes back and floods the body and brain.
Caregiving can be traumatic and overwhelming; you are trying to make the best decisions while stressed and facing loss. Caregivers often second guess health care decisions after the death of a loved one. Some may not be able to stop seeing the death face of their loved one. The image can take over. Visiting a doctor’s office can be triggering. These traumatic memories make it harder to heal. EMDR helps release the trauma by activating it a little at a time and desensitizing it in a safe place with the guidance of a mental health professional trained in EMDR.
To learn more about EMDR, visit www.emdria.org