The world we currently live in is going through several impacts due to the covid-19 pandemic. One of these conflicts is being observed in the mental health of the human being, which is being affected by social isolation, bombarded with tragic news, economic uncertainties, fear of being infected by a disease for which not much is known about a really effective treatment and for not knowing when this will really end.
Just like physical health, mental health must be monitored and it is important to make adjustments to deal with negative emotions. Balancing the mind is essential for the quality of life and for having a healthy social life, in addition to also influencing the body, which can cause physical symptoms when the mind is not well.
For the promotion of mental health, it is essential that each individual seeks alternatives to keep this important area of life in stability, seeking appropriate treatments to treat situations that bother or cause some instability.
From the simplest problems to the most complex ones, it is necessary to understand that organic dysfunctions happen for different reasons, and with that, mental and physical disorders can arise, among them are depressive tendencies, anxiety or psychiatric disorders caused by genetic influence, culture or problems originating in childhood and adolescence.
According to each case, there is a treatment necessary to improve these problems, such as medication, physical activity, establishing healthy habits, distancing yourself from harmful subjects or performing therapy with qualified professionals for each case. The options are diverse and depend on how each individual reacts to the stimulus.
To talk about the current moment and the method she uses to treat her patients, we called the psychologist Claudete Grassi, who since 2020 has been using EMDR therapy [which in English would translate to desensitization and reprocessing through eye movement] to treat your patients more effectively. She comments that never in history have people been so bombarded with tragic news, feeling so vulnerable in the face of a theoretically invisible situation, causing fear, anxiety and insecurity. “For this reason, psychotherapy has become fundamental as a way to help in the processes of elaborating and overcoming simple or complex PTSDs (Post Traumatic Stress Disorders).
The EMDR therapy used by Claudete is an approach that has been used since the 1980s, which works to activate the brain’s creativity mechanisms, helping to face problems, reduce anxiety symptoms, depressive manifestations and to generally improve the mental health of the individual. patient. The method allows desensitization and reprocessing of experiences across the brain’s two hemispheres. It is based on psychological science and psychological neuroscience research and theories.
How is done
In EMDR therapy, the professional uses principles, procedures, protocols and scripts described in eight phases. This approach carries the premise that each person has a disposition for health, integration and internal capacity to achieve them.
Claudete says that first it is necessary to analyze the patient’s history, conceptualize the case, develop a treatment plan, select traumatic memories, assess the patient’s levels of resilience, strengthen resources that will be used to act on negative thoughts and body sensations, promoting self regulation.
In the following phases, the desensitization and reprocessing of these memories are mounted, through sensory stimuli (auditory, ocular and/or tactile) to activate healing mechanisms.
The explanation for the success of this approach is based on the premise that the human brain is formed by two hemispheres. On the right side, emotions and artistic potential predominate, while on the left there are logical and rational capacities. This division makes it difficult for there to be synchronization between reason, emotion and action, affecting the way a person’s life experiences are processed. Therefore, memory reprocessing is an effective treatment.
During treatment, with the effect of bilateral stimulation, the patient is guided to think about the image or to concentrate on the disturbing sensation, with continuous stimulation on both sides of the body, synchrony and integration of the two cerebral hemispheres occurs, the exercises are repeated until there is no more anguish in the patient’s report and the traumatic event is transformed into a positive and confident feeling.
Purpose of EMDR therapy
Claudete states that EMDR therapy seeks to alleviate human suffering, with the aim of obtaining effective effects in a short period of time, maintaining stability, with the main objective of emotional healing.
With several positive effects, the approach can treat anxiety, panic attacks, depression, stress, phobias, sleep disorders, mourning, addictions, pain relief, among others.
Everyone can benefit from EMDR therapy, this approach can speed up the therapy process by resolving the impact of past trauma. However, it is in the clinical history, case conceptualization and patient preparation that determines how the treatment will be conducted, and whether the patient can be submitted to the process. Patients with brain trauma, brain pathologies, medication use, and pregnant women should talk to their doctor before starting treatment.
The psychologist says that psychological trauma can develop at all stages of development, from conception to death. “The patient does not always come with a specific demand, it is common for him to come with complaints such as ‘I feel anxiety’, ‘an enormous void’, there is not an event but a sum of situation that sometimes he has no memory”.
In some cases, the screening can start during the period of intrauterine life through the gestational protocol, during the gestational period the patient does not have memories of images, only bodily sensations and disturbances, “when these sensations and disturbances arise in this protocol, they are reprocessed, and the results are surprisingly positive”, concludes Claudete.
duration of treatment
EMDR therapy can be a brief, focused treatment or part of a longer psychotherapy process, as with any approach to psychology, it will depend on each case and each patient’s response.
This approach allows the patient to learn to self-regulate with available resources and lessons during the session. After carrying out all treatment stages, the patient can continue without the need for the continuous process. “However, psychotherapy is not just overcoming trauma, it is quality of life, it is important to keep mental health organized. In my professional experience, I usually evaluate together with the patient, who is encouraged to experience the emotional maturity rescued”, says Claudete.
Treatment for those affected by the pandemic
The psychologist also claims that this approach used by EMDR therapy can be useful in people who have been negatively affected by the covid-19 pandemic. “The concern for the mental health of the population has never been so evident, with a serious epidemiological and social crisis, where feelings of commotion and collective mourning have become part of everyday life”. She says that the pandemic has changed the world, and there is still no way to predict the future of everything that is happening. “What it means? What can we do? With EMDR therapy, the patient is encouraged to access resources they already had, giving new meaning to memories”, she concludes.
How did it come about
According to the TraumaClinic website, in 1987, Dr. Francine Shapiro, a graduate student in psychology, was walking through a city park in Los Gatos, California. The disturbing thoughts she had started to disappear. When she thought about them again, she realized that they no longer bothered her like they used to. She noticed that her eyes began to move quickly when a disturbing thought came to mind. Eye movements managed to get the uncomfortable thought out of her conscious mind and when she came back to think about it, she had lost much of her negative charge.
So, she began deliberately experimenting, thinking about things from her past and present that bothered her as she rolled her eyes. Every time she did that, the disturbance ended. So she decided to find out if it would work with other people and experimented with her friends. She asked them to follow the movement of her fingers as a way to help them keep eye movements while they were thinking about disturbing things. After experimenting with more than seventy people, she confirmed that the process had desensitized the disturbing thoughts.
She perfected the technique and called it EMD, Eye Movement Desensitization, and in 1990, expanded the concept to EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, to include the concept of processing. She was convinced that eye movements could process traumatic memories, freeing the person to behave more adaptively and functionally.
In 1988, Dr. Shapiro tested his new method on 22 volunteer Vietnam veterans or victims of rape and sexual abuse who had symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Half of the group received an EMDR session, while the other group only recounted their trauma in detail. The EMDR group demonstrated significant improvements; the control group did not.
For ethical reasons, EMDR was also applied to the control group. At one month and three months after treatment, all patients had maintained positive results from their EMDR session.