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Nontraditional psychotherapy shows promising results for some

Reported by: Jessica Moore
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Updated: 7/05/2012 5:54 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- Imagine being able to get rid of painful memories in just a couple of hours.

It sounds almost too good to be true.

However, that's exactly what one therapy claims to do and it’s becoming more popular in the valley.

This therapy is called EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.

Some therapists believe it's the best way to treat things like post-traumatic stress disorder but others say the proof that it works is just not there.

A woman we’ll call Jane describes the day she lost her job as one of the worst days of her life.

“I may as well have had a car accident or someone hit me in the face or robbed me because I felt robbed. Everything that meant everything was taken,” she said.

The experience sent her tumbling into a downward spiral of depression and anxiety.

When time and talk therapy proved ineffective, Jane decided to give EMDR a try. She allowed News 3 to sit in on her session if we agreed to keep her identity private.

“At first I thought -- why am I moving my eyes? It has to be in your mind. You have to make a decision- this is going to work for you,” Jane said. “This is what you want... you have to come into it thinking I want to make something different.”

EMDR is a form of therapy that uses a patient's own rapid, rhythmic eye movements to tap into his psyche. Blinking lights are sometimes used.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a fairly new, nontraditional type of psychotherapy. It's growing in popularity, particularly for treating post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD often occurs after experiences such as military combat, physical assault, rape, or car accidents.

The therapy helps to reprogram his brain and allow the person to remember a negative experience differently.

Sherri Collier is a licensed therapist who has used EMDR in her practice for eight years.

“The eye movement part is to get the right left brain processing,” Collier said. “The theory is if you can remember the traumatic memory with the right left processing, it will help you remember it in a less distressing way.”

A set-up therapy session identifies the most painful part of a trauma or memory a person just can’t shake. It could be something like a car accident or an assault.

As the eyes move back and forth, the patient focuses on that painful memory, the sounds, smells, emotions and body sensations that went along with it.

Proponents of EMDR say it can help soldiers who return from war with post-traumatic stress disorder.

It’s also used for eating disorders, panic attacks and addictions but not all therapists use it or believe in it.

Professor Larry Ashley trains therapists at UNLV is also a recognized expert on PTSD.

“Like I say, it's probably one of the most controversial treatment approaches with trauma,” Ashley said. “We really don't know, at least I have seen a lot that we really know how it works.”

“I feel different," says Jane. “If I were explaining it I’d say if you were wearing a winter coat in the summer and someone said, the reason you're hot is because you have that coat on. You lift the coat off and you can breathe. that’s how I would describe it.”

Professor Ashley does teach his students about EMDR and tells us it is becoming more recognized in the field. He says it shouldn't hurt you, but may not help.

Collier said EMDR session costs the same as a regular therapy session. She describes it as an efficient way to take care of your painful memories.


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