Season 4 Episode 19 : EMDR for Behaviors in Foster Care

Miranda Hager from Hope Restored Counseling joins Jack to discuss EMDR Therapy and how it can be an incredible solution for behaviors caused by trauma, especially for kids in foster care and those that work in child welfare.

When we last spoke with Miranda, she was working for the local CAC (child advocacy center) as a trauma therapist. Now she is in private practice and available to work with a wider client base and have more latitude. Miranda has a wealth of experience of working with EMDR Therapy. EMDR is a clinically researched standalone therapy that has been used in populations who have experienced intense trauma that is affecting their life, especially with post traumatic stress disorder.

Basically what we figured out is that EMDR can be used with anyone who has gone through anything. We learned from Miranda that when a negative experience that has happened in the past is affecting us in some way, we can use this therapy to remove some the maladaptive behaviors that we have learned to cope with the trauma and the negative cognitions that we believe due to that trauma. The therapy can be adapted to work with kids as young as 3 or 4 and a variety of sensitivities.

Here are a list of things that EMDRIA says EMDR can be effective to help with:
– Anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias
– Chronic Illness and medical issues
– Depression and bipolar disorders
– Dissociative disorders
– Eating disorders
– Grief and loss
– Pain
– Performance anxiety
– Personality disorders
– Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other trauma and stress-related issues
– Sexual assault
– Sleep disturbance
– Substance abuse and addiction
– Violence and abuse

Miranda explains the science of EMDR (much in contrast to my zappy zappy explanations from my experience). She uses the bilateral stimulation methods to activate both hemispheres of the brain while helping clients stay one foot in the past and one foot in the present, with the therapist guiding the process and in the safety of the therapy space to help the client de-sensitize and make different meanings and restructure the implicit beliefs from an emotionally charged memory.

Miranda walks us through the 8 phases of EMDR and what an EMDR session would look like.
Phase 1: History and Treatment Planning
Phase 2: Preparation
Phase 3: Targeting & Assessment
Phase 4: Desensitization
Phase 5: Installation & Reprocessing
Phase 6: Body Scan
Phase 7: Closure
Phase 8: Re-evaluation

The most impactful part of the conversation for me was how this is really a shortcut to healing. Instead of waiting for years and years for behavior correction and healing to happen through relationships, EMDR seems to fast track these results by inducing something similar to REM sleep in order to coax our brain into organizing these memories in a healthier way. As someone who has seen both in myself, family and friends EMDR made huge impacts in emotional health, anxiety, depression, in a much shorter amount of time (months or even one session) than traditional therapies.

The reason this was so impactful to me is because we are talking about kids in foster care. Kids have 18 years to just be kids before the weight of the world’s responsibilities start hitting them. And also we have 18 years in our kids lives to create healthy relationships to model for the rest of their lives for them. When a child has experienced a traumatic event that is preventing them from “being a kid” or having good relationships with their friends and family – they are potentially out of childhood before healing can even happen. We only have so much time with our kids – and that’s why I believe that EMDR is very possibly the most effective solution for behaviors caused by trauma.

You can learn more about EMDR from the EMDRIA association at this link, and by listening to this podcast episode. πŸ™‚

You can learn more about Miranda and Hope Restored Counseling at this link.

** Please pardon my jokes about zappers and zappies improper rating scales and what I like to call emdr cancer – my words were chosen with levity not scientific accuracy. (<3 Jack )

** This article was written as a learner not an educator or therapist – please see a licensed therapist or certified EMDR provider (like miranda) for any clarifications.