The presentation was well-attended and well received. After the session concluded, several individuals said they wanted EMI training — now! I’ve done this presentation many times before so the mechanics of it were familiar, but using a volunteer from the audience is always very interesting. I announced at the beginning of the session that I would be seeking a volunteer to work on a real problem. Remember that the entire demonstration was going to be videotaped.
When it was time for the demonstration, I had two women raise their hands. One had a troubled look on her face. My interpretation of her facial expressions and body language (BMIRS’s) told me she was anxious about taking this step. From the stage I asked what it was that she wanted to work on. Her response was one word –“resentment.” She offered no more of an explanation. I asked if this would be difficult for her to talk about. She said yes.
I turned to the audience and commented that with EMI it is possible to address acute anxiety or PTSD without requiring the person to tell the story of what happened — no details, no scenario. I heard gasps from the group and thought I detected some mumbled skepticism. No other technique for resolving acute stress or PTSD will make that claim. So I asked the volunteer if she would be willing to work on her resentment if she didn’t have to tell the story of what caused it. She agreed.
Wendy (her name) agreed to volunteer and be videotaped as a part of the demonstration, knowing that the results would later be “streamed” on the Phoenix website and to promote the training and use of EMI with mental health clients. All I knew about Wendy is that she drove to the AMHCA meeting from Arkansas with a friend and she concurred that she had never met me before.
I had already described the steps in conducting an EMI session and given many examples of how it worked. I had also shared results from a Pilot Study done at Phoenix Counseling that showed impressive improvement in the average scores of the five clients with PTSD who underwent two to four EMI sessions. Each took the PTSD Checklist – Civilian Version before and after treatment. This self-report checklist was developed at the Veteran Administration’s Center for PTSD and is widely used.
Back to the demonstration . . . I did a pretest of Wendy”s thoughts about the resentment (“It’s a ‘flight’ sensation, like I need to be ready to get away.”) and associated sensations (Tightness around her neck, and some sound she did not explain). We agreed that we would rate those symptoms with a score of 100%. If the symptoms got better, the score would go down to 90, 80 or,70%. After one “round” of EMI eye movements, I asked Wendy to focus on the resentment again (remember that she never disclosed what had caused it), and to tell us if it was the same or different. She looked for a minute and then said, “It’s different.” When I asked her how it was different, she said it did not have as much of an effect on her. I asked if she had had this resentment for a long time and she answered,”Yes, 30 years.” When I asked if the changes in her reactions were better or worse after the first round, she said, “better.” When I asked what score she would give them now, she said, “45%. I commented that 45% was a big change, less than half of what it was before we began.
After round two, the score went down to 35%. She said both the image and how she felt about it inside (one visual change, one emotional) were “softer.” I asked Wendy if it was one person who had caused the resentment. She said, “yes.” When I asked if she still had to interact with this individual, she answered, “yes” again. I asked what would have to happen for her to see the score go even lower? She jokingly said, “Be completely unaffected by it.” Then she said she would have to be less fearful. We did one more round of EMI and I asked her to focus this time on the fear itself instead of the whole event. When we were done Wendy’s score dropped to 15%. When I asked how the fearfulness was she said, “lessened.”
The results were typical of how EMI works with clients and a good example of how people don’t have to tell their stories of trauma to heal, contrary to what other PTSD interventions require. When we finished, I asked Wendy to take a deep breath and to appreciate the important work she had just done in front of large group of people — important healing work. Then I asked Wendy if she gave “high fives,” to which she said yes, so we clapped hands.
What followed was 15 minutes of questions, many for Wendy about what her experience was while we did the session. I’m hoping that many left believers in this simple but effective technique for healing acute stress and PTSD.
(Look for the pilot study results and portions of the demonstration to be carried on my website www.deninger.com under “More About EMI” in the near future.
I called Wendy to check and see how she was doing three weeks after our work together. She had agreed to sign a release so Phoenix could use the video for training purposes. She reported that she “was still feeling relief” from our work together at the convention; the changes we had achieved stayed in place.