EMDR: New advancement in trauma therapy



By Pathways


In over 40 locations across Alabama, Pathways Professional Counseling serves an average of 4,000 clients a year. Not only do we serve the children and families in care of Alabama Baptist Children's Homes (ABCH), but we also serve the public as we seek solutions to many of life’s problems.

The scope of counseling visits covers a wide range of needs: family and marital counseling, foster and adoptive therapies, and anxiety and stress management, to name a few. Clinical Director of Children and Adolescents Kristin Lowrey, says, “Taking care of children is our top priority—and it is also our responsibility to stay abreast of the latest research and therapies that will benefit our children.”

One such method we’re now invested in is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), is a relatively new counseling technique used in trauma work, specifically for those suffering from PTSD or PTSD-like symptomology. This type of therapy is utilized with clients, usually at least age 5, who have experienced stress-related trauma.

EMDR utilizes bi-lateral stimulus, redirecting neuropathways of trauma memories (typically stored in the right hemisphere) to alternate pathways (typically the left hemisphere). Bi-lateral stimulus simply engages both sides of the brain while processing the traumatic memory. To-date, EMDR is by far the most effective and rapid PTSD treatment known to therapists.

Ross Hickman, President of Pathways says, “EMDR training is expensive, but well worth the investment.” Aiding us in making this investment into our team and ministry this year was a grant received from The Caring Foundation of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama (BCBS). We were very grateful to receive this financial support to help us forge ahead in this new field of treatment in order to better serve our clients.

Because of the generosity of BCBS, we were able to purchase many tools (image below), like hand tappers and other bi-lateral stimulus aides, to assist our clients in this new therapy. In addition, with a portion of the grant received, six of our counselors were able to attend EMDR training in Atlanta, Georgia, this past January and February.

Rod Campbell, who serves as a counselor in central and north Alabama attended this training and shares, “As I left for the conference, I had a list of about five clients who I thought would benefit from EMDR. After the training, I used it with eleven clients the first week I was back! In my 17 years with Pathways, I’ve never seen any therapeutic tool have such an immediate and powerful effect. I’m currently using EMDR with clients from nine years old to 80 years old. I am seeing my clients respond with hope, healing, and joy.”

Ultimately, the goal in utilizing EMDR is to reduce the trauma symptoms being experienced and reroute one’s cognitive processing of the trauma. We look forward to incorporating this therapy method with the attachment based therapy work that we do. Many of the children in our care have experienced trauma, and research has proven that this type of therapy is effective. We believe that EMDR will benefit our families and children tremendously.