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Local counselor encourages veterans to try a different form of therapy

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 7:05 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - The United States withdrawal from Afghanistan may bring back past trauma for some veterans.

That’s why a local licensed counselor, Luke Severt, wanted to tell them about an option for dealing with it. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or EMDR, is a form of therapy that may be a good fit for veterans rehashing memories.

“With Afghanistan being in the news I believe it has come up much more. Veterans wondering about past service or recalling things that they went through during their time,” said Severt.

Severt said that people put mental distance between themselves and traumatic situations and that’s called disassociation. He said when someone disassociates, the information in their outside world is just too much to take in at that moment.

EMDR doesn’t require the patient to explain the details of a hard experience like in traditional conversational therapy. Instead, they give a brief sentence summary of the traumatic event and a negative belief they have about the world because of their experience.

Then they either hold a vibrating device that alternates vibrations from one hand to the other or a counselor has the patient follow their hand movements back and forth with their eyes to simulates rapid eye movement in sleep. This helps them remember prior memories their brain blocked out because it was protecting them in the moment of the traumatic experience.

What does the movement do? “That bi-lateral stimulation is helping the brain process what was never processed,” said Severt.

While it won’t erase the memory of the war for veterans, it will help give them some peace of mind.

“This is where I am now and that’s where I was then. Remember the event, but it’s not dictating how you’re acting in the moment,” said Severt.

It’s not just for veterans, it works for anyone with prior trauma and it is often faster than talk therapy. But, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Going back to traumatic moments in memories is very emotional for patients.

“Why would a councilor take you to the spot in your brain where it’s going to hurt the most? That’s the part that needs to heal,” said Severt.

If you’re interested in learning more about EMDR or scheduling an appointment contact Behavioral Health Clinic in Wausau.

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