EMDR and preverbal trauma

(do you have whiplash yet from the ever-changing tone of these posts?  from jaunty cocktail names to dead-serious topics in a flash.  buckle up, buttercup!)

I wanted to write about a new therapy that I’ve just started with E.  It’s called EMDR, and it’s based on the well-established rapid-eye-movement therapies used for people with PTSD.  The work is based on the theory that children can (and do) have pre-verbal trauma, which is not really conducive to treatment with traditional therapies – either because the children are not capable of verbalizing what happened to them, or they do not have clear conscious memory of it.  Anyway, it uses alternating bilateral stimulation (in E’s case, little buzzers that she holds in each hand – which she loves – or a therapist simply tapping on her feet).

This stimulation has the effect, when administered coincident with the child thinking or talking about feeling safe and attached, of retraining the brain.  Instead of the old neural pathways which associate feelings of attachment with fear and abandonment (whether conscious or – more likely – not), the brain is somehow stimulated to re-route and create new pathways.

I can’t say I understand the science of it all, though there is a book out on the topic, which is helpful.  Dr. Joan Lovett, the author of that book, is the pediatrician who is treating E.  And she is now working on a new book, specifically about using this therapy with internationally-adopted children.

Children who have been helped by EMDR often present with a spectrum of behaviors that look a lot like ADHD, ADD, ODD and Attachment Disorder.  Certainly when I described E’s volatility, sensitivity, controlling and often oppositional behavior, independence, and hyperactivity, Dr. Lovett was decidedly nonplussed.  And said it was all extremely consistent with other internationally-adopted children she has treated.  Not all kids she’s treated have dramatically improved, but some have.  And so we are giving it a shot.

We have seen her only 4 or 5 times, but I can already tell this is powerful stuff.  E doesn’t show a clear upward trajectory – as Dr. Lovett warned, the results of this therapy often include big steps back on the way to and intermittently during, the forward progress.   But after one recent session, E fell asleep in the car and slept for 14 hours straight.  She has never in her entire life – even as a baby – slept like that.

Her brain is definitely working on something big here and I’m not-so-cautiously excited about it.

8 comments

  1. Sue says:

    I did EMDR as an adult–worked magic for my PTSD.. I even wrote about it way back when. I hope it continues to work for you and E.. youhttp://www.becausetheheartisfulltobursting.blogspot.com/2012/02/another-tool-for-parenting-toolkit.html

  2. bigtablefarm says:

    ok couldn’t help but chuckle as I read this… so you electrocuting her when she has happy thoughts? hummm — ok ok I’m just kidding… sounds like a super interesting and the long sleep is interesting too!! xxxx

hI there. say something!