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EMDR - is this done right or is it not being done at all? Help, worried mum.

(20 Posts)
Homebird8 Fri 24-Jan-14 06:26:46

I'm sorry, this is long but I hope I've made it readable. Pease help me if you can. I've posted in children's mental health but thought there might be more knowledge/traffic here. I utterly believe in the power of EMDR but am not sure that it's being properly applied in this case and would love your comments. I'm trying not to worry but it doesn't seem right to me.

DS1 (11) is being treated with EMDR for his experience of violent bullying at school.

His first session was on Wednesday, and whilst I've done some reading on the subject of EMDR, I don't know whether what I witnessed was a competent application. The practitioner, who I did not get to choose, only had her training last week and I suspect DS1 was her first post-qualification patient.

She showed him what it was like to try to follow her fingers moving side to side, and also gave him the opportunity to use a pair of bongo drums to drum with his own hands. She let him choose which he preferred and he went for the drums because the finger following made him dizzy (not surprising as he is still suffering from a head injury he got about 7 weeks ago which gave him a concussion and she knows all about).

Does anyone know whether there is an element of suggestion in the technique of EMDR? The reason I ask is that DS1 was initially asked to rate himself on a scale of 0-10 (not at all upset - extremely upset) when thinking about his 'event'. He rated himself at 7.

After the first group of two or three 30 second treatment periods with the drums he was asked again and this time rated himself at 5. The practitioner then told him that this was good and that really she wanted the number to be 2 or less as then "the bad memory tends to stay put away".

She then went on to do a few more periods of thought and movement, not with the drums but finger following as he was struggling to drum with the tremor he experiences as a part of the concussion after effects. (He is being treated by a physiotherapist for this tremor on the recommendation of a child neurologist.) The EMDR practitioner then asked for a final rating.

A bit of extra information. Each time DS1 was asked where he was now he mostly came up with a good memory, family time, picnics, fishing and sailing which he loves, other occasions he has thoroughly enjoyed. Only a couple of times did he refer to the 'event'.

His final vote of the session was a 3.

It seemed to me that the practitioners comments about a score of 2 was leading him to give her a number that would be 'right' and please her. He didn't seem to be thinking about the event most of the time at all. She has given neither of us any indication of what is considered successful treatment. As far as I know, when he says 2 he gets discharged.

Please, does anyone have any experience or knowledge in this area? I'm out of my depth but I do believe that EMDR can be a very effective treatment for trauma and anxiety. Is DS1 getting good EMDR? It doesn't seem so to me.

awaywego1 Sun 26-Jan-14 09:25:36

it sounds OK to me and very similar to my emdr experience.
There is a tendency in any therapy to report that you are feeling better even if you are not so you need to reassure your son that its OK to be honest..that he won't be in any trouble etc. My mind often didn't focus on the incidents but wandered mainly and the therapist didn't think this was a problem.
You could also speak to the therapist about your concerns.

Homebird8 Sun 26-Jan-14 20:49:54

Thank you so much for your response awaywego That gives me a bit more confidence. I think it was partly the practitioner not being able to explain particularly well, probably because DS1 is her very first patient post qualification. And it's my boy. If it were me it would be easier to ask but I can't risk jeopardising his treatment. I will reassure him that he can trust his own assessment and that there aren't right answers. Good advice, thank you.

CharlieBoo Sun 26-Jan-14 22:43:23

Hi, I've had EMDR and have found it amazing! It truly has been a revelation to me and would recommend in a heartbeat.

Yes the scale from 0-10 is how scared/upset/anxious you are about said event. In the beginning it will clearly be high. Your therapist then talks you through your feelings and emotions related to the event and as you process the event your anxiety/scared feelings should decrease, so when in the future the thought/event pops up in your head again it should cause no/minimal distress.

So when the therapist says she wants it at a 2, that's a great start for a first session but yes just be aware your ds isn't just saying its at a 2 to please the therapist.

I'm sorry to hear about the awful bullying. EMDR is fantastic for trauma and I wish you and your ds all the best. Xx

Homebird8 Mon 27-Jan-14 00:14:37

Thanks CharlieBoo. It was the first session and the therapist made no attempt to talk him through it, or even really keep him thinking about it. Perhaps she was teaching him how to do the drumming and think about anything. His next session is on Tuesday so we'll see where she takes it then.

Glad you found it so useful. I have read a lot of good things about EMDR which is why I'm happy that DS1 receives it. I just need to be sure that this woman is really helping him. He seems to like her but I just don't click with her. I don't trust her she seems dithery and determined to find an ASD link with the bullying that just doesn't exist.

She has asked me more than once about ASD symptoms (parallel play, tiptoeing, eye contact issues, lack of understanding of the meaning behind idioms, collecting, obsessions, etc.) and doesn't seem to believe me that this is not the boy we have in front of us. She even said that I had told her that he colour and size sorted his cars all the time when he was little. He didn't even play with cars much and I told her I thought she was thinking of another child.

Thank you for helping me to feel more comfortable about her application of EMDR. So glad it worked for you. I'll work on the 'not saying 2 to please the therapist' thing.

CharlieBoo Mon 27-Jan-14 09:23:33

Hi homebird... I have to be honest in that my therapist was highly experienced and has been doing EMDR for 9 years. Is your sons therapist through CAHMs or someone you've found privately.

I agree trying to find a link to ASD when your ds is there to be treated for a highly distressing trauma incident seems odd. For what it's worth my son lined cars up age 2-3 and isn't on the spectrum.

Are you sitting in on the session? I know my therapist also works with children but seeks a close relationship with the parents in order to fully understand the extent of the problem. I think mums have sat in before obviously if the child is comfortable with that.

Good luck, your poor ds... I really hope EMDR works well for him. X

awaywego1 Mon 27-Jan-14 10:29:56

The ASD thing doesn't sound fair really so I can understand your concerns and its really OK to flag them up and see another therapist if you aren't know your boy best.

In terms of the eye movement and the trauma my therapist never encouraged me to stay with the difficult memories was only ever a starting point and from there my mind was just allowed to wander. The process by which emdr works is different to something like prolonged exposure therapy where there is a need to stay with the memory during treatment.

I'd give it some time but don't be afraid yo raise your concerns and ask to sit in on sessions ( if your son is happy for you too)

Homebird8 Mon 27-Jan-14 18:28:56

Thanks both of you for being so supportive. It's good to know that sticking with the memory isn't as important as I thought it might be. Happily DS1 has a great stack of lovely happy memories he keeps dredging up, mostly of family times and times when he was pushing his own experience and boundaries, so I know we're not letting him down too badly.

We're not in the UK any more but the service is a bit like CAMHS so not something I have sought out privately. It came up after a head injury DS1 suffered at the tail end of last year and some of the after effects are thought to be psychological. I'll ask more questions if I can this morning when I take him back for 'round two'.

I am sitting in on the sessions although it's just as much to find out what has been going on at school as to be able to feed anything in. I'm taking notes so that I can remember how DS1 responds. He starts a new school year and a new school (change in age group) on Monday and we will be working with them to get him off to a good start. To be honest I reckon the physio and OT's advice will be just as useful as the CAMHS equivalent people.

I'll pop back later to let you know how it goes this morning. Feeling much more confident to deal armed with your advice.

awaywego1 Mon 27-Jan-14 19:12:55

Good must be really tough to see your son struggling so much. I'm glad he's getting support and hope you are looking after yourself toothanks

Homebird8 Tue 28-Jan-14 02:56:00

It is hard to see all the emotion going across DS1's face as he works with his therapist but this time I'm pleased to report a real breakthrough. It was if she and he seemed to click today and I could see healing happening right in front of me. I was right I think in that something was just not quite right last time they met, but today it was much better.

Thank you so much for your insight and support. The last thing he needs is me feeling unsure of his care. I need to be a rock for him. This is an amazing community of people with such broad experience between them that I could call out and find such help. flowers

awaywego1 Tue 28-Jan-14 09:36:00

I'm glad he had a better session smile hopefully the therapist was just finding her feet a little last time. Some sessions I had left me feeling really frustrated as they seemed pointless and didn't really go anywhere but then others really seemed to help.
Also my therapist did a lot of 'resourcing' with me..visualising a team of wise and kind people helping me, developing a safe place and a light stream and its those kind of things that you could be doing at home with him if he is wobbly to help him feel safe and calm.

CharlieBoo Tue 28-Jan-14 17:53:37

So pleased the second session went well. It's amazing how healing EMDR is... I hadn't even heard of it before I met with my therapist. The beauty of it is you don't need to talk about it in detail like you do CBT, the healing goes on inside your mind and is wonderful. It really helps to desensitise the trauma and for me worked really quickly.

All the best of luck and do keep us updated on your ds' progress. Xxx

Homebird8 Thu 30-Jan-14 02:11:20

The light stream stuff makes sense awaywego. I was given a sheet showing me what to do/say at DS1's last treatment and we're starting to work with it at home.

You're right CharlieBoo, it's almost miraculous when you see it working before your very eyes. He was so tired afterwards though and really needed a good break and some relaxation time for the remainder of the day.

The hardest thing for me is hearing snapshots of his memories, things I've never heard before. Hearing his poor fragile little self being brave enough to voice them. It's worth it to hear the amazing changes though, from expressions of feeling 'worthless' and 'no good at anything' turning to him feeling 'valuable' and that his 'best is always good enough'. And hearing him say that the worst moments he could come up with at the beginning of the session he didn't really care much about anymore. smile

Homebird8 Fri 14-Feb-14 09:10:40

Just in case anyone is still watching this thread I'd like to report a huge change in my DS1. He has been meeting real life trigger situations and just says he's 'over it'. EMDR is great. Thank you so much to those of you who gave me such support as we went through the early days. flowers smile

awaywego1 Sat 15-Feb-14 19:19:12

really glad to hear that home bird.. that's great news grin

CharlieBoo Sun 16-Feb-14 08:31:31

I'm so pleased for you and ds... Wonderful news xx

Homebird8 Sun 16-Feb-14 18:40:21

Thank you again, both of you. Even DH is considering finding an adult EMDR practitioner to help him deal with something which happened in his childhood and now stops him doing something very ordinary in his adult life. It almost seems like a magic wand around here. Actually, it could probably be achieved with one wink

CharlieBoo Sun 16-Feb-14 22:11:44

It certainly changed things hugely for me ... I'd never heard of it before my therapist suggested it, and I must admit I tried to persuade her to do cbt with me but so pleased she steered mr to EMDR. I'm made up for you all that it worked so well! And yes get DH to give it a go! Big hugs x

Homebird8 Mon 17-Feb-14 04:25:37

Actually, I'm now remembering the peace I used to get from practising a musical instrument through my teens. I could be really emotional and end up calm and ready to interact again. I'm wondering if the metronome played any part?

TheFirstOfHerName Sun 06-Jul-14 21:13:01

Just found this thread and I've found your DS's experience reassuring as my DS1 is about to start treatment.

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