Reading is a modern superpower

Posted on Updated on

Through the blogosphere I`ve met many talented and wonderful people. James is one of them. He writes, makes music and has the valuable asset of having a high EQ. I`m glad I was lucky enough to find his blog, and want to share one of his posts in appreciation. It is about reading, something I could write about for hours myself. For me, turning a page in a book, is a journey that takes me to new places that leave me refreshed and happy at the end. Since I´m a trauma therapist, using EMDR  (systematic eye movements) in my toolbox, I also recommend reading since it produces the same eye movements produced with EMDR. It calms us while we also learn something new. Our brain learns most effectively when we enjoy ourselves, and feel good.

Scientific articles about emdr

EMDR as an integrative psychotherapy approach: … – ‎Shapiro – Sitert av 94
EMDR within a phase model of trauma-informed … – ‎Greenwald – Sitert av 19


Thank you James, both for writing this and being the man that you are! 

Why: Reading is a Modern Superpower…

It is my contention that:  In the modern world, Reading is no less than a Superpower.

In this post I will explain the thinking behind this, and share 7 reasons why you should consider make reading an integral part of your daily life.

So sit back, strap in, and turn on, dear reader, while I expound upon…


In this modern world there are more and more calls on our finite and disparate store of attention than ever before.  Our concentration is relentlessly pushed and pulled from one subject to another with ever-increasing alacrity and frequency.  Slowly, in a grind that stretches over days, weeks, months and years, our awareness is continually and repeatedly fractured, resulting in our ability to focus being rendered less and less cohesive.

In this accelerating and perpetually amplified widescreen landscape of information, reading can seem at first glance like an ill-afforded luxury, a chore, or simply a waste of time.  If you are already straining at the outer boundaries of information overload wont reading just push you over the edge?  Why would you actively choose to shove yet more information into a skull-space that already feels like it is a balloon, filled to bursting?

This is a very good and important question.  Here, are 7 answers:

#1 You should read because: It gives you more lives than a bag full of cats.

We only have one life that we are aware of.  But if you read you are granted access to aninfinite amount of experiences, a countless number of lives.  Thru the act of reading one bookyou can absorb and process someones entire journey in one sitting.  Every single lesson, every single mistake, and every single scrap of their hard-won knowledge is offered up to you, for the price of a paperback and a few hours of your time.

#2 You should read because: There are no new problems.

There are only a handful of real human problems.  It just seems like there are more because they can appear in a myriad of forms.  The fact of the matter is: if you have a problem in the present you can be pretty sure that, at some point over the last 3000 years, someone a lot smarter than you has: wrestled with, solved handily, and recorded the solution to said problem in a book which has now been passed thru the Darwinian filter of time and has become readily available for your perusal.

#3 You should read because: It makes you a better writer.

When you read a lot you become better a better writer (and thinker) by osmosis.  It happens automatically.  What’s that?  You don’t consider yourself a writer?  Well, just stop and consider how many times a day you: send an email, type a text, or scrawl a note to someone you love.  Whether you identify as one or not, the fact of the matter is, that: in today’s world everyone is a writer and being able to express yourself in this form with clarity and brevity is no longer simply preferable, it has become essential.

#4 You should read because: It can shortcut evolution.

I have observed that when I study something (a book, a set of ideas, a piece of writing) intensely and in depth, my behaviour invariably changes without any conscious effort on my part.  Why this happens I do not fully know, but the fact remains that it does.  When you commit to studying something deeply, if it is something that you truly desire to learn, the veryact of studying will cause it to become embodied within you.

#5 You should read because: It strengthens the creative faculty of Imagination.

If you watch a film, or a piece of video, absolutely everything is presented to you.  It is all thereon the screen.  You can just sit back and enjoy the ride.  When you read however, you are the one generating: scenes, backdrops, dialogue, and entire worlds.  You are both the creator, and the perceiver of a waking dream.  The faculty that Einstein said was more important than knowledge, the faculty of imagination, is like a muscle and reading is the greatest gym in the world.

#6 And of course: It is a beautiful, boundless, and infinitely pleasurable.

Reading is incredible.  To be fully absorbed in a book or piece of writing is to be somewhere other than this world.  Somewhere outside of time.  It is one of life’s true joys.  From the outside it looks as if nothing is happening.  But inside, inside, you can be transported thru time and space to any place, real or imagined.

You can experience devastating heartbreak, the darkest melancholy, or the deepest and most trenchant rapture.  You can spend time in the filthy trenches of the first world war, choking on the aroma of the dead, or listen to waves as they lap peacefully on the white shores of some faraway beach.  You can witness the whole of life from the perspective of the tiniest insect, or roll ecstatically on the ground while the heavens split open and God herself reaches her blistered arms thru to lay waste to the earth with flame, brimstone, salt and black ash.

All this and more; from a warm armchair; simply thru the act of cracking open a book and reading.

#7  But even after all that, at the end of the day perhaps the most important thing that you gain from reading is: The ability to effortlessly sustain, an unbroken stream of attention. Otherwise known as: the ability to concentrate.  Reading can literally be an antidote to the growing malady that is: our perpetually fractured, anxiety-inducing, and increasingly fragmentary awareness.

Because it is actually not the increasing amounts of information which are causing the sensation of overload; it is the reactive and frenetic bouncing of our attention.  It is the way that the ubiquitous and screaming inputs of modern life condition our minds to hop from place to place with greater and greater speed; like a frog jacked up on amphetamine pills playing hallucinatory lily pad hopscotch whilst on fire.

In this ever vibrating landscape, in this ever accelerating time, and with these increasing and competing demands for our attention, the ability to sustain your concentration in a focused and unbroken stream for any significant duration of time is a rare and beautiful thing.

In fact, some would say that it is somewhat akin to a Superpower.


My name is James Radcliffe.  I am a 100% Listener-Supported Independent Musician and Artist.  If you would like to get my music, It is available now to stream or buy, Here.

DO IT! 😉


[ Oh, and one last thing:

A very beautiful and special author friend of mine has written a poem called ‘Eternal Thread’ which was inspired by an ongoing series of conversations between her and I that began on the comment boards (right here on jamesradcliffe.com), and continue to this day.  She has a great talent and I love this piece of her work.

If you are interested, you can experience it, here. ]

Thankyou for reading this.  You are Awesome.  You know it!

EMDR in the treatment of addiction

Posted on Updated on


EMDR in the Treatment of Addictions

Posted on March 24th, 2014

Ruwan M Jayatunge M.D.  


Abstract: This paper discusses the use of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) in addictions providing two case studies.  Addictions have become a major public health problem impacting millions of individuals and their families. Although the etiology of addiction is multi-factorial clinical evidence shows that frequently the addictions are associated with concurrent mental health problem such as PTSD, or depression. Treating these concurrent conditions would help to reduce the negative impact of addictions. EMDR has been proven effective in the treatment of PTSD and Depression. Therefore EMDR can be used as one of the effective supportive therapies in addictions. Recent researches too support the effectiveness of using EMDR in the treatment of addictions. Further research is warranted to understand the total therapeutic impact of EMDR in treating addictions.

Key Words: EMDR, Addictions, PTSD, Depression, Addiction Memory

 EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a clinically-proven evidence-based psychotherapeutic method that was developed in 1987 by Francine Shapiro. According to Shapiro (2002) EMDR is an integrative psychotherapy approach. EMDR offers a structured, client-centered model that integrates key elements of intrapsychic, behavioral, cognitive, body-oriented, and interactional approaches (Shapiro, Vogelmann-Sine, & Sine, 1994). Shapiro and colleagues (2007) further elucidate that EMDR contains with a theoretical model that emphasizes the brain’s information processing system and memories of disturbing experiences as the basis of pathology. The eight-phase treatment comprehensively addresses the experiences that contribute to clinical conditions and those that are needed to bring the client to a robust state of psychological health.

EMDR has been initially used to treat posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  A large body of research has found that EMDR is one of the efficacious psychotherapeutic methods to treat PTSD.  The American Psychiatric Association has recognized EMDR as one of the effective and potential methods to treat PTSD (APA, 2004).  Silver & Rogers (2005) and Bisson & Andrew (2007) reported positive outcome using EMDR to treat PTSD.  The recent research has also revealed that EMDR is effective in treating people with Addiction Disorders.

Addiction Disorders and EMDR

Addiction is defined by the World Health Organization as repeated use of a psychoactive substance or substances, to the extent that the user is: periodically or chronically intoxicated, shows a compulsion to take the preferred substance(s), has great difficulty in voluntarily ceasing or modifying substance use, exhibits determination to obtain psychoactive substances by almost any means, and tolerance is prominent and a withdrawal syndrome frequently occurs when substance use is interrupted (WHO).

The disease model of addiction describes an addiction as a disease with biological, neurological, genetic, and environmental sources of origin (McLellan et al., 2000). Addiction has serious social economic, and health consequences. Addictive behaviors are major causes of chronic disease, premature death, and high health care costs (Prochaska, 2004). Substance use and dependence cause a significant burden to individuals and societies throughout the world. The World Health Report 2002 indicated that 8.9% of the total burden of disease comes from the use of psychoactive substances. The report showed that tobacco accounted for 4.1%, alcohol 4%, and illicit drugs 0.8% of the burden of disease in 2000 (WHO, 2004).

An important characteristic of addiction is its stubborn persistence (McLellan et al., 2000). It has recurrent cycles of relapse and remission. Although addiction usually (but not always) begins with a conscious decision to use a drug, changes that occur in the brain at some point can turn drug use and then abuse into a chronic, relapsing illness  Wasilow-Mueller et al., 2001). According to Hyman (2005) the goals of the addicted person become narrowed to obtaining, using, and recovering from drugs, despite failure in life roles, medical illness, risk of incarceration, and other problems.  There is a large and growing body of evidence about the neurobiologic basis for addiction behaviours, the role of genetic, environmental and epidemiologic factors.  This evidence demonstrates that substance use is not a simple matter of choice (Stanbrook , 2012).

Although addiction behaviors are multifaceted EMDR can be used to treat addictions. EMDR has been successful with addiction disorders. Hase and colleagues (2008) provide evidence to support the successful application of EMDR in addictions. Marich (2009) illustrates EMDR in the addiction continuing care process with a case study.  In this case study of a cross-addicted female was able to achieve 18 months of sobriety and important changes in functional life domains following EMDR.

Psychological Trauma and Addictions

Addictions and psychological trauma are highly correlated. The comorbidity between addiction and psychological trauma has been discussed by numerous researchers. According to Jacobsen, Southwick, and Kosten (2001) 22%–43% of people living with PTSD have a lifetime prevalence rate of substance use disorders. Based on an Australian national survey Mills and colleagues (2006) were of the view that alcohol was the most common substance of misuse by the survivors with PTSD who had a comorbid substance use disorder. PTSD was most prevalent among those using opioids (Ahmed, 2007).

Individuals living with severe psychological trauma often use alcohol and other substances as a negative stress coping method and to displace traumatic memories. This could lead to a vicious cycle. Avoidance of trauma reminders and associated distress may be achieved by the use of drugs and alcohol, alternatively a substance abusing lifestyle might predispose such individuals to experience traumatic events (Reynolds et al., 2005).

In addition unresolved trauma plays crucial role in addictions. The impact of unresolved psychological trauma could be callous and overwhelming. The ramifications of unresolved trauma can be endured for decades. According to Shapiro and Laliotis (2010) these disturbing memories are the cause of psychopathology.

It is essential to address deep rooted psychological trauma and unresolved mental conflicts associated with addictions. Addressing unresolved intrapsychic trauma associated with childhood abuse may increase the efficacy of treatment outcomes and reduce relapse rates among individuals with alcohol addiction (Windle et al., 1995). EMDR can be successfully used to treat psychological trauma (including unresolved mental conflicts and grief) improving functionality of the individual.

Depression and Addictions

Depression is a common mental disorder. Depression and substance abuse frequently occur together. A substance-abusing patient who exhibits symptoms of a mood disorder may be suffering from acute intoxication or withdrawal, substance-induced mood disorder, preexisting affective disorder, or a combination of these conditions (Quello et al., 2005).  Depression comorbid with alcohol or substance abuse requires stabilization of the mood and decrease in drug use or cravings. Treating patients’ co-occurring mood disorders may reduce their substance craving and taking and enhance their overall outcomes (Quello et al., 2005).

EMDR has also been proven effective in treating depression. Bae & Park (2008) report that potential application of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) for treatment of depressive disorder. Jayatunge (2008) indicates that the Sri Lankan combatants who were diagnosed with depressive disorder with alcohol abuse achieved successful treatment outcome following EMDR.

EMDR as a Potential Method to  Treat Addiction Disorders

Individuals with substance use disorders are heterogeneous with regard to a number of clinically important features and domains of functioning. Consequently, a multimodal approach to treatment is typically required (APA, 2006). Medication and psychological therapies are widely used in treating Addiction Disorders.

Among the psychological interventions EMDR remain as one of the effective therapies. A relatively small but growing body of literature indicates that EMDR may be an effective adjunctive treatment for substance abuse (Abel & O’Brien, 2010).  Zweben and Yeary (2006) reported on the potential uses of EMDR in addictions treatment.  When combined with traditional addictions treatment approaches, EMDR can enhance client stability, prevent relapse, and promote recovery (O’Brien,   & Abel, 2011).

Clinical reports highlight that EMDR   is an important addition to the treatment of substance abuse. The application of EMDR apparently stimulates an inherent physiological processing system that allows dysfunctional information to be adaptively resolved, resulting in increased insight and more functional behavior. In addition EMDR is used to incorporate new coping skills and assist in learning more adaptive behaviors.  (Shapiro et al., 1994).

Hase and colleagues (2008) reported a randomized controlled study which investigated the effects of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) in the treatment of alcohol dependency. As they report: thirty-four patients with chronic alcohol dependency were randomly assigned to one of two treatment conditions: treatment as usual (TAU) or TAU plus two sessions of EMDR (TAU+EMDR). The craving for alcohol was measured by the Obsessive–Compulsive Drinking Scale (OCDS) pre-, post-, and 1 month after treatment. The TAU+EMDR group showed a significant reduction in craving posttreatment and 1 month after treatment, whereas TAU did not. Their results indicated that EMDR might be a useful approach for the treatment of addiction memory and associated symptoms of craving.

Breaking the Addiction Cycle via EMDR

The etiology of addiction is multi-factorial and complex.  Addiction or dependency may be viewed as a subset of brain and behavior disorders (Wasilow-Mueller & Erickson, 2001).Negative childhood experiences, onset of psychological trauma, depression inducing life events play a role in the development of addictions. In such events EMDR can be used as a robust psychotherapeutic intervention.

The mechanism of EMDR has become a central topic. According to Solomon and Shapiro (2008) the Adaptive Information Processing model proposes that the mechanism of action in EMDR is the assimilation of adaptive information found in other memory networks linking into the network holding the previously isolated disturbing event”. Based on this assumption Schubert and Lee (2009) suggest that EMDR transmutes the dysfunctionally stored memory by integrating it with preexisting memory networks.

Describing the neurobiological mechanism of action of EMDR Stickgold  (2002)  hypotheses that  repetitive redirecting of attention in EMDR induces a neurobiological state, similar to that of REM sleep, which is optimally configured to support the cortical integration of traumatic memories into general semantic networks. They further suggest that this integration can then lead to a reduction in the strength of hippocampally mediated episodic memories of the traumatic event as well as the memories’ associated, amygdala-dependent, negative affect.

Addiction memory plays a decisive role in addictions. The human brain is an open learning system, which reveals its own neuronal connectivity through the experience of the perceived environment with its own state; the personal addiction memory is interpreted as an individual acquired software disturbance in relation to selectively integrating “feedback loops” and “comparator systems” of neuronal information processing (Boening, 2001). Addiction memory has an effect on relapse occurrence and maintenance of learned addictive behavior.

It is essential to work on addiction memory in order to break the addiction cycle. Hase and colleagues (2008) discuss the successful application of EMDR to reprocess the addiction memory in chronically dependent patients.

The standard EMDR protocol for treating addictions involves reprocessing the earlier (traumatic) memories that set the basis for the dysfunction (including contributing elements to the development of addiction), the present triggers that activate disturbance, and the development of future templates for more adaptive behavior, which is essentially a form of relapse prevention for this population. Strategies for addressing specific targets related to the addiction are a valuable addition (Shapiro et al., 1994: Hase et al., 2008).

Behavior modification (reprocessing) is an important aspect of EMDR (Rafferty, 2005). EMDR works on conscious and unconscious craving reducing occurrence of relapses.

Case Reports

1)      Captain KHZ86 was an officer of the Sri Lanka Army who participated in a number of military operations. In 1992 he went on a rescue mission and accidently walked into an ambush. In this unexpected situation he lost 23 of his men in front of his eyes. Many were killed by the enemy gunfire and mortar attacks. After this incident Captain KHZ86   felt that he was personally responsible for the deaths of his men. He was troubled by survival guilt and ruminations. In order to avoid guilt, intrusions and night disturbances he started indulging in alcohol. He became numbed and withdrawn.  He silently suffered abusing alcohol in large quantities. Following his drinking behavior he was diagnosed with harmful use of alcohol and referred for psychological therapy.

 Captain KHZ86 underwent the full therapeutic protocol of EMDR with 8 sessions. His image was dead soldiers lying on the battle field with a negative cognition: I am responsible for their deaths. His SUD (subjective units of distress) was recorded the peak of 10. With the reprocessing therapy his disturbed feelings and intrusive memories disappeared. At the end of 8 sessions his SUD reduced up to zero with a newly established positive cognition: Their deaths were caused by the enemy and I did my utmost to save them even risking my life.

He was able to come to terms with his past trauma. The survival guilt that drastically affected him for a long time diminished gradually.  He was able to sleep without experiencing depressogenic combat related mental images. He detached from the negative coping method and started to spend time without abusing alcohol. Hence Captain KHZ86 was able to fight back his addition. After sometime Captain KHZ86 got an honorable discharge from the military and now married and working in a multinational company. He has been sober for more than two years.

)      Mr. BXXF14L- a Sri Lankan Tamil expatriate experienced stressful life events before migrating to North America. He had to flee his hometown when the militants tried to forcibly recruit him. He came to Colombo and worked in a company for a short period. He lived in Colombo without proper documents and in a random search he was caught by the Police.  Mr. BXXF14L was detained and questioned for a period of one week. Following these distressing events and foreshortened future he decided to migrate. He came to Canada and claimed refugee status.

While living in Canada Mr. BXXF14L gradually became depressed. He sadly missed his hometown, friends and family. Practically every day after work he started drinking alcohol and tried to forget grief-stricken memories. He frequently smoked cannabis. He became more and more depressed and reluctant to seek psychiatric help due to social stigma. Sometimes he engaged in self harm such as head banging and punching walls out of anger.

Mr. BXXF14L was referred for EMDR by a close relative. Although Mr.  BXXF14L was ambivalent in the first few sessions later became an active participant.  He willfully followed the EMDR treatment protocol. After six sessions of EMDR, Mr. BXXF14L became less agitated and reduced alcohol abuse considerably. His depressive feelings became less prominent. His sleep improved and he stopped smoking cannabis. Eventually he cut down his drinking volume for more than 80 %. Now for the last seven months he drinks only in social occasions and alcohol consumption does not exceed more than 2 cans of beer.


Addictions have negative consequences in private and social life. It has become one of the public health concerns. Psychological trauma and stressful life events often trigger addiction behaviors.  A large number of individuals with addiction disorders are affected by PTSD, Depression and sometimes unresolved psychological conflicts. Often these core conditions hinder the individual’s functionality and sustain addictive behaviors. These individuals would be benefitted by EMDR.  Numerous researches indicate positive clinical outcome in addictions following EMDR.   EMDR is safe, cost effective and seems to have no side effects. Therefore EMDR is one of the efficacious psychotherapeutic interventions to treat addictions.


Abel, N. J., & O’Brien, J. M. (2010). EMDR treatment of comorbid PTSD and alcohol dependence: A case example. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 4(2), 50-59. doi:10.1891/1933-3196.4.2.50.

Ahmed, A. S. (2007). Post-traumatic stress disorder, resilience and vulnerability. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 13, 369-375. doi: 10.1192/apt.bp.106.003236.

American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC.

American Psychiatric Association (2006).  Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Substance Use Disorders, Second Edition. Retrieved on 5th March 2014 from http://psychiatryonline.org/pdfaccess.ashx?ResourceID=243188&PDFSource=6

Bae, H., Kim, D. & Park, Y.C. (2008). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing for adolescent depression. Psychiatry Investigation, 5(1), 60-65.

Bisson, J., Andrew, M. (2007).Psychological treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 18;(3):CD003388.

Boening,J.A. (2001).Neurobiology of an addiction memoryJ Neural Transm. 108(6):755-65.

Hase, M., Schallmayer, S., & Sack, M. (2008). EMDR reprocessing of the addiction memory: Pretreatment, posttreatment and 1-month follow-up. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 2(3), 170–179.

Hyman, S. E. (2005). Addiction: A disease of learning and memory. American Journal of Psychiatry, 162, 1414—22.

Jacobsen, L., Southwick, S., & Kosten, T. (2001). Substance use disorders in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder: A review of the literature. American Journal of Psychiatry, 158, 1184–1190.

Jayatunge, R. M (2008) . EMDR Sri Lanka experience: (Psychological trauma management through EMDR in Sri Lanka , Sarasavi Publishers Colombo.

Marich, J. (2009). EMDR in the addiction continuing care process: Case study of a cross-addicted female’s treatment and recovery. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 3(2), 98–106.

McLellan, A.T., Lewis, D.C., O’Brien, C.P., Kleber, H.D.(2000). Drug dependence, a chronic medical illness: implications for treatment, insurance, and outcomes evaluation. JAMA .284:1689– 1695

Mills, K. L., Teesson, M., Ross, J., et al (2006) Trauma, PTSD, and substance use disorders: findings from the Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Well-Being. American Journal of Psychiatry, 163, 652–658.

O’Brien, J.M. & Abel, N.J. (2011) EMDR, Addictions, and the Stages of Change: A Road Map for Intervention. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 5(3), 121- 130.

Prochaska, J.O. (2004). Population Treatment for Addictions. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13, pp. 242-246.

Quello, S. B., Brady, K. T., & Sonne, S. C. (2005). Mood disorders and substance use disorder: A complex comorbidity. Science & Practice Perspectives, 3, 13–21.

Rafferty, P. (2005). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: An analysis of a controversial evidence based treatment. The New School for Social Research, New York, NY. The New School Psychology Bulletin, 3(2), 83-105.

Reynolds, M., Mezey, G., Chapman, M., Wheele,r M., Drummond, C., Baldacchino, A. (2005)Co-morbid post-traumatic stress disorder in a substance misusing clinical population. Drug Alcohol Depend.  7;77(3):251-8.

Ricci, R. J., Clayton, C. A., Foster, S., Jarero, I., Litt, B., Artigar, L., & Kamin, S. (2009). Special applications of EMDR: Treatment of performance anxiety, sex offenders, couples, families, and traumatized groups. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 3(4), 279-288. doi:10.1891/1933-3196.3.4.279.

Schubert, S., Lee, C.W. (2009). Adult PTSD and its treatment with EMDR: A review of controversies, evidence, and theoretical knowledge., Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 3(3), 117-132.

Shapiro,  F., Vogelmann-Sine, S., Sine, L.F.(1994).Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: treating trauma and substance abuse.  J Psychoactive Drugs. 26(4):379-91.

Shapiro, F. (2002).EMDR and the role of the clinician in psychotherapy evaluation: towards a more comprehensive integration of science and practice.  J Clin Psychol. 58(12):1453-63.

Shapiro, F., Kaslow, F., & Maxfield, L. (Eds.) (2007). Handbook of EMDR and Family Therapy Processes. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Shapiro, F.,  Laliotis, D. (2010). “EMDR and the adaptive information processing model: Integrative treatment and case conceptualization”. Clinical Social Work Journal 39 (2): 191–200.

Silver, S.M., Rogers, S., Knipe, J., & Colelli. (2005). EMDR Therapy Following the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks: A Community EMDR Therapy Following the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks: A Community Based Intervention Project in New York City. International Journal of Stress Management, 12, 29-42.

Solomon, R. M.,  Shapiro, F. (2008). EMDR and the adaptive information processing model. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 2, 315–325.

Stanbrook , M.B. (2012).Addiction is a disease: We must change our attitudes toward addicts. CMAJ 184:155.

Wasilow-Mueller, S., & Erickson, C. K. (2001). Drug abuse and dependency: Understanding gender differ-ences in etiology and management.  Journal of the American Pharmacology Association, 41 , 78–90.

Windle, M., Windle, R.C., Scheidt, D.M., Miller, G.B.(1995).Physical and sexual abuse and associated mental disorders among alcoholic inpatients.Am J Psychiatry. 152(9):1322-8.

WHO .(2004). Neuroscience of psychoactive substance use and dependence

World Health Organization website. Programmes and Projects, Management of Substance Abuse. Lexicon of alcohol and drug terms published by the World Health Organization.

Zweben, J., & Yeary, J. (2006). EMDR in the treatment of addiction. Journal of Chemical Dependency Treatment, 8(2), 115–127.

The sound of walking away from the past

Posted on Updated on

Shapiro, you are my hero

Open questions about EMDR

Posted on


Thoughts about EMDR ( what is EMDR ?)

innter EMDRAndrew Solomon has written a book called «The noonday demon» (2001) based on his own experience with depression. He has travelled the world to find answers to what depression is and how to treat it, for himself and to help others. He tried different types of treatment strategies, and rated them afterwards. For him, medication was necessary, but he found other therapeutic methods helpful as well. One of them was EMDR

He writes: «I was convinced that it was a cute but insignificant system and was very much surprised by the results» «I was flooded with incredibly powerful images from childhood, things I hadn`t know were even in my brain. I could form association in no time at all: My mind became speedier thana it`s ever been, p 141».fbcd7b34c340acf7f3a4f2773445698f

In the same book he talks with Elliot Valenstein, professor emeritus of psychology and neuroscience. He explains «The medications are excellent and we are grateful to the companies for making them, but it`s a shame that the educational process isn`t balanced better. Further, because industry funds many of the largest and most comprehensive studies; There are more studies of new drug therapies than of other new treatments such as EMDR, p 394»

I use EMDR a lot, and am still impressed by its effects. True enough, it doesn`t always lead to revelations, but I haven`t encountered one person who doesn`t feel calmer while using it. Maybe this is because my clients want to be nice, but it can`t be all, can it? When it comes to real traumatic events, it can work magic. Still, too little research is done, and I already have so many research questions waiting for an answer. One of them is based on an evolutionary principle: We were originally born to live in the wild. We used our whole body much of the day: We had to run, hunt, make tools and interact in a much more physical way than many do now. I still love to use «both sides of my body» when I write, when I swim, and when I walk. I always feel calmer when I do, and I wonder if this might have some connection with EMDR. Are we maybe made for bilateral movement? Are we supposed to switch from one side to the other? Is this integration?

We know that women have a larger corpus callosum than males, and we also know about other differences between men and women. We need the «interaction» of logic with feelings, so that we don`t react to

Cuerpo calloso / Corpus callosum
Pinned by Paloma Guerra

Paloma Guerra

Paloma Guerra • 2 weeks ago

emotional, but also because we need to appreciate our emotions when we choose. Antonio Damasio was a pioneer when it comes to the last principle. He showed that we make better judgements when we trust our gut feelings, and that people with certain personality traits have problems with figuring out the best «rule» when deciding between alternativatives (some sociopaths are known for taking risks that normally would be inhibited by reactions of fear in others). If sociopaths were more sensitive to fear, and had more access to compassion, what would be the results?

Many daily activities are bilateral. Bicycling, swimming, walking, gesturing and dancing are rhythmical left-right. I wonder if this rapid shifting from one side to the other, might be one of the important elements in EMDR. There are some studies that look at EMDR and other bilateral stimulation, such as sounds or small, electrical currents delivered to first the left and then the right hand, and they point to an effect even then. Still, eye movements from left to right, has the strongest effect, so even if it helps, it doesn`t look like other modes of stimulation has the same potential. Until we know more, I will continue with my holistic approach, using both sides of my body as much I can. I have ONE body, and I think its important to not ignore parts of it. Isn`t this was integration is all about?

What is Bilateral Stimulation? | Anxiety Release

EMDR Explained: The Who, What, Where and How of EMDR 

Bilateral Music | EMDR and Beyond

EMDR: Eye movements help trauma victims

How EMDR opens a window for traumatized people

Andrew Solomon on Shameful Profiling of the Mentally Ill by Immigration Officials

Session with EMDR

Posted on Updated on

cropped-m6.jpgFor people who are curios about EMDR, I have embedded a session so that people can see for themselves what the fuss is about.

EMDR: Eye movements help trauma victims

Posted on Updated on


For those who have followed the blog for a while, you might know I mostly work as a trauma therapist, and that I use, among other methods, EMDR to integrate traumatic memories. so what does the psychologist mean?

How EMDR opens a window for traumatized people

Posted on

This is from one of the developers of EMDR (treatment of trauma) 

F. Shapiro

How EMDR Therapy Opens a Window to the Brain

Posted on September 19, 2012 by admin

by Francine Shapiro, PhD

Over the past two decades, the use of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy has provided researchers and clinicians with the ability to observe how symptoms develop and can be rapidly treated. Over 20 randomized studies have demonstrated positive treatment effects, and EMDR has been declared an effective trauma treatment by organizations worldwide, including the American Psychiatric Association and the Department of Defense. Three randomized studies have demonstrated that 84 to 100 percent of those suffering from a single trauma no longer had posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after an average of three 90-minute sessions. Changes that typically took months or years with other forms of therapy occurred within weeks. This rapidity allows both clients and clinicians to observe firsthand how the brain’s internal connections are made.

EMDR therapy places the information-processing system of the brain first and foremost in both the development and treatment of pathology. This system functions to take disturbing events and make the appropriate connections that allow a return of emotional equilibrium. For instance, a fight with a family member may cause us to have negative emotions, thoughts and body reactions, but they are usually resolved through thinking about it and during the period of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. We may end up feeling, He must have been having a bad day. We’ve had good experiences before and can resolve this glitch. This resolution occurs because our brain has made the appropriate connections, and our negative reactions disappear. But when an event is too disturbing, it can overwhelm the information-processing system, and this negative experience is stored in memory along with the unpleasant emotions, physical sensations and beliefs. Since everything that happens in the present links into the memory networks to be interpreted, any future encounter with the person can trigger these unprocessed memories and the negative responses arise.

Rather than rely on the deliberate manipulation of beliefs and behaviors as occurs in cognitive behavior therapy, or the use of the relationship as in psychodynamic therapies, EMDR therapy identifies the earlier life experiences that are the basis of current problems and, after accessing the memories of the events, activates the brain’s information-processing system. This is done by means of standardized procedures that include the use of bilateral eye movements, taps or tones. The eye movements have been found to cause an immediate decline in negative emotions and imagery vividness, as well as increased memory accuracy and episodic retrieval. These observations support two theories: that the eye movements disrupt working memory, and that they link into the same processes that occur in REM sleep.

In EMDR therapy, it is during the sets of eye movements—each of which lasts approximately 30 seconds—that the brain makes the associations and neural connections needed to integrate, or digest, the disturbing memory. What is useful is incorporated and what is useless is discarded. For instance, a rape victim may begin by feeling, I’m useless and shameful. I should have done something. At the end of treatment, she feels, The shame is his, not mine. I’m a strong, resilient woman.

Since the client is asked, “What do you get now?” after each set of eye movements, the clinician is able to witness firsthand the often startling connections that have caused the client’s problem. For instance, one of the cases reported in my recent book, Getting Past Your Past, involved an earthquake victim (“Lynne”) who had come for treatment to the Mental Research Institute. Although she had not had any problems after previous earthquakes, she developed PTSD after a recent one. After preparation, she targeted the disturbing image of hiding in a doorway with her son and after a few sets of eye movements, she made the following associations after consecutive sets:

Lynne: Yeah I was thinking about my sense of betrayal with my brother that he molested me, and how I really admired him (crying).
Lynne: Yeah. (crying) Something occurred to me like, “Duh”: How much—that it shook my sense of reality.

Here we can see how unexpected and significant the different unconscious memory associations of the brain can be. The ground is literally shaking during an earthquake, and this is connected to a major event in childhood when Lynne’s trust was betrayed. In both instances what should have been a firm foundation became shaken.
After further sets:

Lynne: What comes really clear—is getting sick when I was around the same age.…I had a really bad pain in my side, and then they just decided that I had some kind of mental problem. I guess that was the only way that I could express it.

Lynne knew she had a bad pain, but no one believed her, and they concluded that she couldn’t trust her own perceptions. Once more there was no firm ground to stand upon.

Subsequent sets of eye movements brought her to associations of hiding in bed under the covers while her parents fought. The chaos of her troubled childhood and this scene seemed clearly linked with the chaos of the earthquake and hiding with her son. It helps explain why this particular earthquake resulted in her getting PTSD. At the end of the processing session, the appropriate connections had been made and the earthquake no longer troubled her. At one-month and one-year follow-ups, she no longer had PTSD.

Traumatization is a widespread problem. In fact, recent research has demonstrated that general life events can cause even more symptoms of PTSD than major trauma. Many of the negative emotions, thoughts and body reactions people have are caused by unprocessed memories stored in the brain. In Getting Past Your Past, readers can identify the basis for their own problems and learn EMDR self-help techniques to immediately change negative responses. For instance, if you are troubled by a negative image, try imagining it on top of paint in a can and stir it up. This disrupts working memory and can help get rid of the image. Other techniques will help you change negative thoughts, emotions and body reactions. There are also guidelines to know when you need full memory processing. The clinical work with EMDR therapy has clearly shown that unprocessed memories of all kinds are the basis of a wide range of pathologies.

Brain scans have clearly demonstrated pre-post changes after EMDR therapy, including increases in hippocampal volume, which have implications for memory storage. The bottom line of EMDR outcome research is that clinical change can be both profound and efficient. It also shows how mental problems are actually caused by physiologically stored, unprocessed memories. Hopefully, this recognition will help remove the stigma of receiving mental health treatment. We have no hesitation about getting a broken leg realigned by a physician so that healing can take place. If self-help techniques are not sufficient, we should likewise not hesitate to receive professional help to allow the information-processing system of the brain to resolve our mental health issues.

Dr. Francine Shapiro is the originator and developer of EMDR therapy and the recipient of numerous awards, including the International Sigmund Freud Award for Psychotherapy of the City of Vienna. Her most recent book is Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy (Rodale Books).

– See more at: http://brainworldmagazine.com/how-emdr-therapy-opens-a-window-to-the-brain/#sthash.cyKkitGi.dpuf

Want less pain?

Posted on