EMDR Therapy for the Emotional Effects of Cancer on the Individual and the Family
EMDR can help the individual and the family struggling with the emotional effects of cancer to feel more relaxed and in control, cope better with medical treatments and side effects, and overcome anxiety and depression. EMDR restores a secure sense of well-being, integrates emotional and cognitive functioning, and can help you live your life with courage, optimism, and self confidence.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a powerful psychotherapy approach that has helped millions of people of all ages relieve many types of psychological distresses.
Impact of Cancer on Individuals and Family Members
A diagnosis of cancer and subsequent treatment may cause distress and anxiety for the individual, the caregiver, and other family members. Cancer can be a destabilizing experience accompanied by intense emotional deregulation. Cancer diagnoses and treatment often elicit a range of emotions, including, but not limited to:
EMDR can greatly help alleviate or even eliminate these uncomfortable feelings, as well as:
In my work, I have seen EMDR facilitate a rapid decrease or elimination of anxiety, stressful thoughts, and/or traumatic memories, including intrusive thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks, panic, and emotional distress.
The EMDR Process
When a person experiences an upsetting event, one moment can become "frozen in time." Remembering the moment may be as upsetting as experiencing the moment itself. Such memories can have lasting negative effects that interfere with the way a person sees the world and relates to other people.
EMDR has a direct effect on the way that the brain processes information. Following a successful EMDR session, normal information processing is resumed, and the memory that remains is without emotional triggers. Therefore, the memory becomes less upsetting or neutral.
An EMDR Session
It is common with treatment and surgery for people to feel vulnerable, threatened, and at times hyperaroused. In the article "EMDR Therapy Protocol for Oncological Patients" (Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, Volume 10, Number 3, 2016), the authors describe the ability of the EMDR intervention to strengthen protective factors and promote a feeling of security.
I will work with the individual and/or family member to identify a specific problem. For some people this could be of recent events or concerns about the future (i.e. receiving a diagnosis of cancer, starting treatment protocol and follow-up visits, or undergoing screenings).
In the session, the client will call to mind the disturbing event or issue, what was seen, felt, heard, etc., and the client's current thoughts and beliefs. I will then facilitate what is called "dual attention stimulation." This process includes directed eye movements and verbal prompts, while the client focuses on these memories or thoughts.
Sets of eye movements are continued until the memory becomes less disturbing and it is associated with positive thoughts and beliefs about oneself. During EMDR, the client may experience intense emotions. However, by the end of the session, most people report a great reduction in the level of disturbance. The goal of completed treatment is to live with a feeling of calm and safety in one's everyday life.
EMDR as Effective Treatment
Approximately twenty controlled studies have investigated the effects of EMDR. These studies have consistently found that EMDR decreases or eliminates the symptoms of traumatic stress for the majority of clients. Clients often report improvement in other associated symptoms such as anxiety or depression.
Many organizations have found EMDR to be an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression, including: