Summarized from Chapter 9 in EMDR:
The Breakthrough Therapy for Overcoming Anxiety, Stress and Trauma (Shapiro & Forrest).
Mia was a single mother whose 12-year-old son was killed by a train when his shoe became stuck in the track. For a year after his death she had obsessive thoughts and nightmares about the accident. Her depression was intense and she often thought of suicide. Mia took disability leave from work because she couldn’t concentrate or function well. She was treated with Prozac, Ativan and weekly “talk” therapy, but 13 months after her son’s death she still felt hopeless and distressed. Mia was at the end of her rope. At this point, her doctor suggested she enroll in a free PTSD- research study at Yale Psychiatric Institute. There she was seen by psychiatrist Steve Lazrove for three sessions of EMDR, a therapy for overcoming anxiety and stress. In the first treatment session she described the worst part of the story and rated it a “10” on a 0-10 disturbance rating scale. Mia reported the emotion was a terrible pain in her chest, and a sense that “my heart was stolen from me.” She said, “I feel guilt. He was my responsibility.” Lazrove elicited a more positive belief, that it was an accident and not her fault. Then he had her focus on the most disturbing part of the memory and he guided her eyes to move back and forth. Gradually, over the course of about an hour, and after numerous “sets” of bilateral stimulation, the details of the memory became less disturbing. By the end of the first session she reported she could think about the accident scene and it no longer felt distressing. She reported, “I feel relieved. I feel more comfortable, like a weight has been lifted off me. When I think about the memory now, it doesn’t seem as unbearable or excruciating to recall. The painful part is gone.” By the end of the three sessions she came to feel that it had neither been her fault nor her son’s fault. At the 8-month follow-up visit Mia reported she had returned to work. She was sleeping well and was no longer having obsessive thoughts about the accident.