In the last few months I have started using EMDR to assist clients with reduction in pain levels associated with chronic disease. I was prompted by a client who asked me one day “How come you don’t use EMDR for pain relief when you’re using it for so many other things?” I suppose there was a natural hesitation on my part even though some of the more recent research is really encouraging. To meddle in the area of pain management seemed to be a big step for me as I have always had a well developed sense of responsibility toward my clients and consistently advocate the reminder to ‘do no harm’ in therapy.
I proceeded with extreme caution, following the appropriate protocols and encouraged by this client who was all for giving this treatment a go. “After all, ” she chided “I’m in one hell of a lot of pain right now so what harm can it do?” Visualising convulsions, fainting spells or worse I very cautiously and tentatively went ahead. Targeting the thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations associated with the day to day burden of living with pain was a starting point and the accompanying words to describe the picture provided the impetus for processing. My client had walked into my office that day complaining of severe pain in the back of her neck and was consistently trying to correct the angle of her neck in an attempt to provide some short lived relief, without success.
As the saccades rolled by she said things like “I can’t believe this is happening” and “I just don’t see how this can be working” as she experienced a distinct reduction in pain from 8-9 down to 2-3 at the end of the hour. Not only does she experience a reduction in pain but there seems to be the added benefit of “feeling chilled out” to use her own words. Now this is a very driven, energetic and hardworking person who finds it very difficult to take time out for herself. This therapy hour brings her some significant pain relief for up to two or three days as well as some peace of mind, without the need for taking prescription drugs. Most of us working as therapists in the addictions field encounter people who have been unwittingly seduced into addiction by the need to control serious pain and using EMDR could bring some welcome light relief for those who are willing to give this amazing therapy a try.
Building upon a solid therapeutic relationship founded on empathy, trust and unconditional positive regard, utilising EMDR for pain relief as a step toward a new direction has proven to be both beneficial and rewarding for myself and my clients alike. Every day brings something new and fresh with EMDR as a powerful therapeutic tool. While I am not advising people to throw away their pills just yet, I, like many other EMDR therapists pose the question that perhaps there might be a way to reduce pain naturally using a neurologically based process such a EMDR. More research needed but we are off to a good start.!