Erica Overshiner, MSW, LCSW, Clinical Director at Aspire Behavioral Health Hospital
It was a hot, clear afternoon. I was driving back from Houston when I saw traffic slowing to a halt. Much to my terror I had just arrived onto the scene of a horrific accident. There were not even first responders on the scene yet. I got out of my vehicle to try to help, but sadly there was no help to be offered.
Every time I tried to fall asleep scenes from the accident overwhelmed my mind. I started having flashbacks during the day, panic attacks, becoming hypervigilant and agitated. As a therapist I understood what was happening to me and needed to seek out a therapist who could help me process this trauma. I looked for someone who had been trained in EMDR.
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing It is a type of psychotherapy that is relatively new. It incorporates bilateral stimulation (eye movements, tactile pulsars etc) to help the brain process the trauma. Since trauma can get “stuck” in non-verbal parts of the brain, the brain needs a nonverbal method to process it. I had been trained in EMDR a number of years ago, and now needed to utilize it myself. I had one 2 hour session with a therapist and my flashbacks and panic attacks dissipated, my sleep returned to normal, and my hypervigilance and agitation disappeared. While this treatment may not work for everyone, it helped me tremendously.
With EMDR the patient doesn’t have to talk at length about the trauma, which makes this method so appealing for the client. Aspire Hospital has recently incorporated EMDR into our inpatient, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs with appropriate patients and clients. As one client with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder stated, “I feel like a totally different person. I don’t know how it works, but it does”.