What is EMDR?

What and Who is EMDR for?

EMDR, also known as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy was first developed in 1987 by Francine Shapiro. It is a well-supported, extensively researched, and efficient psychotherapy approach used to treat a variety of distressing life events and issues. This clinical treatment approach has been endorsed by many international organizations as an effective treatment modality including the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the World Health Organization (WHO). EMDR therapy can benefit clients exposed to trauma, violence and who experience stress-related difficulties, mood issues such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and panic attacks, eating disorders, as well as grief and loss, chronic medical conditions, and pain. 

How EMDR Works

EMDR is a complex, systematic and integrative psychotherapeutic approach that draws upon multiple psychological orientations including cognitive-behavioral, motivational interviewing, somatic and psychodynamic therapies. 

EMDR is an eight-phase model that takes the client through a process that is thoughtfully and intentionally developed for clients to work through the alleviation of distress associated with their memories. Some of the eight phases include history taking, client preparation, assessment and desensitization. 

At the crux of EMDR treatment is the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model that allows information to be adaptively processed to a point at which the associations made to a distressing incident are integrated into positive cognitions and emotions. With the use of directed eye movements, the information processing system is activated. Eventually, clients may find resolution in that helpful learnings are made available for use in the future.

What Clients Need to Know about EMDR

It is important to consult with an EMDR-trained therapist as this is a mental health intervention. You could ask your therapist questions about whether EMDR would be an effective approach for you and address any questions or concerns you may have about it. It is also important that you feel comfortable collaborating with your therapist.

Written by:
Isabelle Ong

Clinical Mental Health Counsellor for Individuals & Groups, Children, Adolescents and Couples
Ph.D., LCMHCA, NCC (USA)
SACAC Counselling

References:

EMDR Institute, Inc. (2020). Retrieved from: https://www.emdr.com/

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy. (2017). American
Psychological Association. Retrieved from:
https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/treatments/eye-movement-reprocessing

“I need closure!”

“Need for closure” first coined by the social psychologist Arie Kurglanski in the 1990s refers to a framework for decision-making that allows us to resolve ambiguity, obtain clarity and achieve serenity. Obtaining closure means knowing why something ended, and no longer feeling any emotional distress associated with the event. This is oftentimes not something that can be easily achieved during a relationship break-down. Within the period of that phone call, dreaded conversation or the split-second of reading a sent text (or even being ghosted!), your world could metaphorically fall apart, and your mind begins searching for reasons as to why and how this even happened.

The need for closure can be explained by several cognitive phenomena. Firstly, a relationship breakdown results in cognitive dissonance – that is, the sharp contrast between what you thought you knew (e.g., loving relationship, being a ‘significant other’) to the sudden reality of your new single status. The disparity between both realities is oftentimes very jarring which leads to the search for answers and meaning. Our tolerance or intolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity is a second cognitive factor at play as we try to make sense of what has just happen, why did the relationship end, and there is the need to understand if the relationship was truly significant or special, and for ourselves to be validated. Individuals who report a greater need for order and predictability usually report more emotional distress than those more comfortable with ambiguity and the sense of not-knowing.

Relationship dissolution results in a chasm where our lives as we knew it once stood, and we often feel bereft. Yet this makes perfect sense when we think of how much of our lives were previously entwined with that of a significant loved one – your sense of self, your friendship groups, maybe you were close to each other’s family, or were perhaps cohabiting or planning the rest of your lives together when that relationship bombshell goes off. Our self-concept takes a real hit when the relationship ends, especially if there had been self-expansion or a sense of growth as the result of being in a relationship with someone else. The loss of sense of self can result in a sense of loss of control, and achieving that closure becomes the way to feel more in control.

In trying to achieve closure, it can be useful to ask ourselves:

What did this relationship mean to me, and therefore what does the end of the relationship signify, and to grieve for that.

The dissolution of any relationship, no matter how welcomed, is tinged with sadness due to the loss of an attachment relationship. Giving yourself time to grieve and not judging yourself for that is important for recovering from a relationship break-up. Take your time to heal from those losses.

Acknowledging that the dissolution of a relationship is never one party’s fault – rather it is a combination of you, me, and the dynamics that take place between us and with our environments.

Research has shown that negative beliefs about the self and cognitions reflecting self-blame were the strongest correlates of break-up related emotional distress. Recognising that it is not “all my fault” allows us to begin to repair that self-narrative and rebuild our self-identity, even though it can be hard especially when it was the other party who broke it off first.

Look for patterns in my relationship history and reflect if these patterns might be getting in the way of finding sustainable love, and learn from those experiences

Oftentimes the lack of closure results in us wanting to make things different, to figure out why the relationship ended, and blaming ourselves paradoxically gives us that. Looking for these patterns in a more wholistic manner can be an alternative for repairing that cognitive dissonance and can help us not only begin to make sense of the relationship dissolution, but also to begin to feel more in control, and therefore in a position wherein we can begin to make a difference for ourselves and to plan our lives, rather than to figure out what it was that we may have done.

Finally, find purpose in the pain.

Research has indicated that when people adopt ‘redemptive appraisals’ or positive appraisals to negative situations, they reported reduced emotional distress. However, this effect was cumulative and occurs over time. Hence, while it is essential to give ourselves time, it is just as important that we reappraise the situations and reappraise ourselves, and to make meaning of what happened in the way that makes sense and allows us to begin to see that silver lining.

Fortunately, research has also shown that we get better at choosing partners with age.

Written by:
Daphne Goh

Clinical Psychologist
SACAC Counselling

References:

Boelen, P., & Reijntjes, A. H. A. (2013). Negative cognitions in emotional problems following romantic relationship break-ups. Stress and Health, 25(1), 11-19. https://doi.org/10.1002/smi.1219

Harman, J. J. (2013, October 21). “I need closure!” Why it is not possible to get it. Luvze.  https://www.luvze.com/i-need-closure-why-it-is-not-possible-to-get-it/

Lewandowski, G. W. Jr., Aron, A., Bassis, S., & Kunak, J. (2006). Losing a self-expanding relationship: Implications for the self-concept. Personal Relationships, 13, 317-331.

Ramsden, P. (2018, October 9). The psychology of closure – and why some need it more than others. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/the-psychology-of-closure-and-why-some-need-it-more-than-others-104159

Slotter, E. B., & Ward, D. E. (2014). Finding the silver lining: The relative roles of cognitive appraisals in individuals’ emotional distress after the end of a romantic relationship. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships,32(6), 737-756. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407514546978

Creativity, Leadership and Psychological Safety

We want to make good relationships with others, and want to lead people well. This applies not only to an organization, but also small groups including families.

You may have heard about Google’s research done a few years back, interviewing hundreds of executives, managers and team members, where ‘psychological safety’ was found to be the most important factor in the team effectiveness. (Inc.com)

When ‘Psychological safety’ is promoted in a team, an individual feels safe to take risks, i.e. sharing new ideas, making mistakes, and asking questions, without having fear of being looked at as ignorant, incompetent, or disruptive. It is an environment where team members feel comfortable to be true to themselves, become creative, and feel free to put positive energy towards one’s inner child of playfulness.

A few of our counsellors have talked about importance of play for both children and adults. (Oct.,2020 by R. Leveson,  Sept. 2020 by I. Ong.) Play is a creative process in which one’s yet to be discovered talents, curiosity, and capacities flourish. It is the source of human development.

As a leader of a team, family or an organization, you would want your members to be effective; for instance, you may want them to think, and perform better, to be in better relationships with others, to increase sales, and to be enthusiastic about developing new products. Therefore, it is essential for you to create an environment to secure members’ psychological safety.’  Think of the place where you feel comfortable voicing out your mind.  It may be where (1) curiosity is encouraged, (2) there is healthy debate (without blame), (3) failure is taken as a sign of growth, and (4) asking for help when needed is regarded as a strength rather than a sign of weakness.

Those are the important factors to make a good team or family. Children need this ‘psychological safety’ to be successful members of a family, community, and school. We can ask ourselves as parents or leaders of a group: are we encouraging play and creativity? Listening to members’ opinions without scolding or judging? Celebrating members’ failures, and providing support when they ask for help? If the answers to these questions are “yes,” we know we are building a good team!

Written by:
Rie Miura

Counsellor
Masters in Social Work

SACAC Counselling

Shall we talk about sexual intimacy?

First of all, this entry is not meant to judge whether you do or don’t talk about sexual intimacy. This entry is written to motivate you to reflect on yourself regarding this topic.

Why do you like or not like to talk about sexual intimacy?

Most people don’t talk openly about sexual intimacy with friends, family or even their partners. Even though research shows that people would like to express their sexual preferences. Some of the reasons can be:

* It feels too vulnerable to open up about these desires, needs, feelings or maybe people are scared to feel rejected.

* Don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings or create an argument.

* Maybe we’ll realise we both want something different.

* We haven’t learnt to talk about sexual intimacy in our upbringing or our culture.

* Someone could find it difficult to express what he/she wants/likes/needs.

* Learned that it is something you don’t talk about and should come naturally.

Is it something that we shouldn’t talk about and should come naturally?

Can we know exactly what someone wants or needs or feels or likes or expects if we have never spoken to the other person about it? In a lot of relationships we think we know this exactly, but research shows that a lot of the time we don’t know.

How can we know what someone’s favorite color is, or their favorite food is, or their favorite drink is? We know this because we communicate about our feelings, wishes, thoughts, needs, desires.

Talking about sexual intimacy is something we can learn to do. We can give it a try and open up to your partner about your sexual preferences and pleasures. When we give it a try; talk in a respectful manner to create a safe environment, be curious, also talk about what you like, give each other compliments, if you want something different try to formulate that as a wish or something you like instead of being critical. Say what you would like (desire/wish) instead of what you miss (blame). Talk with the “I”- message (desire/wish), not with the “you”-message (blaming). Plan in time if it is a difficult conversation.

Written by:
Flo Westendorp

Registered Clinical Psychologist
Extended Health Care Psychologist Certificate

MSc & BSc (Clinical Health Care Psychology)
SACAC Counselling

Together is Better: The Social Nature of Learning and Problem-Solving

The research is abundant regarding the superior results of working, problem-solving, and studying together. When faced with multiple assignments, exams, and/or problems with friends and family, teamwork always makes things more manageable, and the determined results more efficient and effective.

Knowledge is gained and created both faster and better when we participate as members of a team. Socially guided problem-solving
results in solutions which are of better quality.

Over this past year, we have been separated from family, friends, colleagues, and fellow students. Within only a few weeks my students went from viewing the lockdown as an extra holiday to realizing how many benefits they were losing through learning in isolation from their classmates. They reported that they were experiencing increased difficulty in thinking and in studying in isolation.

Many fellow educators believed that because of the technology available, students would not suffer any real harm because of the lockdown. While educators were trying to convince themselves and others that learning in isolation would not cause any negative impacts, the students themselves, talked about learning being constructed through active engagement. They remembered what we had told them about the exploratory nature of building knowledge. They did not require a degree in psychology to remind us of the sociocultural aspects of coming to know something new. They surprised me with how quickly they told me that because they were lacking the collaborative processes, their learning was not going deep. Without the discussions with others, without hearing multiple perspectives and ways of solving problems, they were losing confidence in their ability to find novel and creative ways to move forward. They were finding the quality and strength of their solutions to be lacking.

One student told me that only a few months before the lockdown had they come to realize and appreciate their infinite capacity to learn. They continued by saying that it was likely they would have never come to this understanding without the collaborative work that they had done. They saw that their personal evolution into a thinker and a problem solver was being shortchanged by the epidemic. The student lamented the fact that they only had a few of the answers. The process of refining ideas and skills they saw as a continuous learning and relearning, a process of making connections between themselves and their world. The changing, adapting, and improving was slowed by not learning together with peers. They were adamant that coming together through technology was a poor substitute for the real thing. The attitudes that are known to promote learning, such as perseverance and organization of thoughts, assignments, and materials were also more difficult to gain outside of the social context of the classroom. The students went on to tell me that self-esteem and self-confidence came more quickly and effortlessly when observed in others. They reported that enthusiasm is contagious. Getting along with others is something that they are being told is now indispensable. Social development and social responsibility are only learned through social interaction.

Another girl shared that it was through discussion that she became brave enough to share her own beliefs and values. Hearing others ask for clarification of concepts and requesting help provided her with the courage to do the same thing. She then smiled and added, that it was only through the support of teachers and classmates that she became able to clarify, elaborate, and dig deeper into ideas.

It will be years in the future before we have an accurate accounting of all that has been lost due to our planet-wide epidemic. The lost opportunities to learn and think as members of a team is something we need to work to limit in every way possible.

In closing, I want to remind us of the well-known dangers to our student’s learning in isolation. Students working alone are more prone to acquire mental illness. Multiple surveys tell us that seven out of ten teens reported mental health struggles. Being isolated impairs executive functioning skills. Social isolation is associated with a 50% increased risk of dementia. Learning in isolation has many negative, and cognitive consequences including difficulty in thinking and remembering information. We are a social species. We really need each other to survive.

Written by:
Ms. Vivian Colvin
Tutor & Mentor
SACAC Counselling