EYE MOVEMENT INTEGRATION (EMI)

Eye Movement Integration is an impact brief therapy for trauma. It is a faster method to acquire effective results depending on the client and nature of trauma(s).

When we go through a traumatic event all our senses are involved. These are vision (visual), hearing (auditory/audition), smell (olfaction), taste (gustation) and touch (tactile). A very important sense is our Intuition - some may call it our sixth sense or our gut feeling. Our sixth sense actually are messages given by our bodies: sweaty hands, constrictions, shallow breathing, bowel movement, etc.

Of all the above senses our vision plays a major role in the event of trauma - we see what happens with us and around us. Depending on the nature of the trauma and the client other senses are involved in the traumatic event lesser or more, fewer or more. Multi-sensory messages and especially visual images and metaphor can have far greater impact than mere word bound communication.

Though the sixths sense is not widely recognised, our brain is more capable of picking up subtle warning signs than we thought previously. There is a brain region that clearly acts as an early warning sign - it monitors environmental cues, it weighs up possible consequences and helps us to adjust our behaviour to reduce harm or avoid possible dangerous situations. It is called the Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC) - a brain area located near the top of the frontal lobes. It works on a subconscious level and assists in avoiding risk situations. The ACC plays a critical role in how the brain especially processes complex and challenging cognitive tasks. It seems to be an area that is involved in which information gets prioritised in the decision-making process. It is connected with the cingulate gyrus, prefrontal cortex, parietal cortex, frontal eye-fields, amygdala, hypothalamus, insula, and limbic system. Any default in this system or strength may determine how we respond to trauma.

Memory is formed when sensory information is funnelled from the sensory organs via the thalamus to the specialist parts of the brain, e.g. : the occipital lobe for visual information, the temporal lobe for verbal and auditory information, and the frontal lobe where information is processed, integrated and stored to form a perception. The frontal lobe sends information to the limbic (emotions) region and the amygdala (flight, fight or freeze responses) where emotional data is attached to information. In a distressing event information find an alternative pathway. Information from the thalamus can be sent in a single pathway to the amygdala before it can reach the frontal lobe for a clear perception. The amygdala triggers the flight-fight-freeze responses.

After experiencing a traumatic event many people continue to be troubled by disturbing and intrusive thoughts, memories and flashbacks for many years and even for lifetime without psychotherapy. Many clients have had key experiences that has imprinted itself in the client's multi-sensory networks. For many these traces may be strong and fragmented into bits and pieces. In severe cases trauma may cause severe mental disorders like dissociative disorders, PTSD and complex trauma. In milder cases it might only be anxiety and depression. The symptoms that may stem from unresolved memories may include the following: nightmares, flashbacks, avoidance behaviours, panic attacks, somatic aches and pains, and apathy. The hippocampus and amygdala work together in normal situations. By an overwhelming event the amygdala may cause a impaired hippocampal functioning and thus limiting the hippocampus to integrate and coordinate sensory and emotional information into integrated memories. This then results into fragmentary and non-integrated bits and pieces of memory, which may cause continuous psychological distress.

Since 1993 EMI has been developed by Danie Beaulieu, PhD, into a comprehensive psychotherapy method. She has developed guided eye movements that seems to be able to facilitate accessing these non-integrative and troubling memories. It seemingly re-directs and reconnects the bits and pieces in the hidden corners in the brain and seemingly integrates these memories of the past into a healthy perspective of current life. The varying patterns of eye movement, sensitive reassuring office environment, sensory, cognitive, and emotional aspects of the particular memory provides a integrative pathway to mental health.

This therapeutical method in short starts off to determine the highly emotionally charged episode(s) and the fragmented trauma memories (trauma words or distressing memory). The trauma window (visual range) with positive and negative quadrants is determined. The trauma window is then painted with the trauma words. Thereafter systematic varying hand movements are started at a comfortable pace for the client. After each set of movements the client is requested to explore all perceptual modalities (minimum of three). Positive and negative quadrants are also integrated. This is repeated until such time the client is less sensitive to the memories caused by the traumatic event. The final session(s) is an integrative and resourcing process (SE can then also be incorporated).