Unconventional therapy called EMDR helps with traumatic memories

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Close to eight percent of all adults, about one out of 13 people in this country, will develop post-traumatic stress disorder in their life.

For veterans, the numbers are higher: 31 percent of Vietnam vets, 10 percent of Gulf War vets and 11 percent of veterans of the War in Afghanistan. Up to 66 percent of those who suffer from PTSD also battle addiction.

Crissie Brault, a Bloomington woman, who has battled addictions to meth and heroin, has a classic case of PTSD. We’ve documented her recovery for close to a year at CBS4. Currently, she is sober, but her nightmares involving bad decisions and bad drug deals made her recovery more difficult.

“Conversations in my head,” said Crissie. “I just go over these memories. I don’t want to live it anymore. I don’t want to think about it anymore.”

If PTSD goes untreated, the long-term effects can be harmful. That person is at risk for developing mental health disorders, or even medical problems like chronic pain and suicidal thoughts.

But there is help. An unconventional therapy developed in 1989 called EMDR is proving to be effective. EMDR is short for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. It’s taking thoughts and reprocessing them. It works by having the patient recount the trauma, while moving their eyes back and forth. It’s a kind of distraction that in effect, tamps down the traumatic event’s fear.

After several sessions, the client reportedly experiences less distress when they talk or think about the trauma.

EMDR doesn’t require medication, but some patients do take meds. And, EMDR is not hypnosis or talk therapy.

According to WebMD, more than 20,000 practitioners have been trained to use EMDR. The American Psychiatric Association noted EMDR is effective in treating symptoms of PTSD, along with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense.

Brault believes it’s absolutely helped her.

“It’s really weird that it works, but it works.”

Several central Indiana groups offer EMDR in their practices. They include:

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