What is "Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing?" Should Christians practice or support it?
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As noted in the question, EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It was developed in the late 1980's by a woman named Francine Shapiro. Ms. Shapiro was troubled by distressing memories. As she was walking through a park, she noticed that her own eye movements seemed to decrease the negative emotions associated with those memories. This led her to experiment with eye movements in others, in which she found similar effects. The idea underlying EMDR is that past traumatic events cause trouble in the present because memories of those events have not been properly processed. Those unprocessed memories are thought to carry with them the emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations that were present at the time of the original trauma. EMDR seeks to change the way those memories are stored in the brain. EMDR has been primarily used for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but is also being tried for anxiety disorders and addictions. In general, EMDR begins with history-taking and the identification of targets and goals by the therapist. The therapist then has the client practice eye movements or another bilateral stimulation method (such as hand-tapping). The therapist also helps the client establish a method to manage emotional distress during and after the session. Next, the client accesses the traumatic memory and identifies an image related to the memory, a negative belief surrounding the memory, and associated emotions and body sensations. The client also identifies a positive belief. The client then focuses on the memory while performing eye movements, led by the therapist. The client is encouraged to notice what happens during this phase, and the therapist helps guide the focus and alters the treatment accordingly. Once the client has no distress associated with the memory, he or she is instructed to think of the chosen positive belief. The client then observes his or her physical response to thinking about the memory and the positive belief. If there is still emotional disturbance, more bilateral stimulation is applied. If the target memory is not processed fully during one session, the therapist and client discuss ways to maintain the client’s stability until the next session. An underlying assumption of EMDR is that the human mind moves naturally toward mental health, and that EMDR therefore is based more on the client's own accelerated mental and emotional processes, rather than on interpretation by the clinician (as in traditional "talk therapy"). This conflicts with biblical observations (such as that of Jeremiah 17:9) regarding the inherent deceitfulness of the human heart, and also places responsibility for the healing process on human effort, rather than on the power of Christ. Also, the positive belief selected by the patient during therapy might be based on worldly wisdom, which could possibly conflict with biblical truth, as indicated in passages such as James 3:13-17. There are Christian counselors who utilize EMDR. As with most forms of therapy, the usefulness and truthfulness depend in large part on the counselor and the client. If a therapist and a client are committed to biblical truth and seeking healing ultimately from God, EMDR could be an acceptable means toward that end. In any instance of seeking or undergoing therapy, Christians should ask whether it is helping them to draw closer to God; to experience His freedom; and to live increasingly in His truth, rather than drawing them away from God; making them rely only on their own resources; or encouraging them to adopt sinful behaviors and attitudes. Christians should avoid continued participation in a therapy or technique that conflicts with their core religious beliefs.
EMDR is not hypnosis. It relies on the mind's natural ability to heal a traumatic memory. It may be used with hypnosis or psychoanalysis or psychodynamic therapy. Sometimes used with behavior therapy or cognitive therapy, EMDR can be helpful. Deuteronomy 18:10-12 is a warning about witchcraft,divination, charmers, spiritualism and the like. We are to be blameless before God. We are to be connected to God and request His help. The Holy Bible is about God's love and man's relationship to Him. Qualified Christian therapists may be helpful. EMDR is grounded in reality with a goal of reducing the stress of a tormenting event. Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:24 - 2:25, experienced good mental health. God has equipped us for that. In Chapter 15 of 1 Samuel, we see God's regret in allowing Saul to be king. Saul turned from following God. In 1 Samuel 16, we have the account of David being annointed King. A distressing spirit from the Lord troubles Saul. Saul's servants suggest that music therapy may calm Saul. Indeed David (the King of God's choice) is enlisted to play the harp for King Saul. So, what are we to learn? We are to seek God's help. We are to avoid anything that comes in the manner of worldly spiritualism. We are to use natural means. Yet, at the same time, if we have need of a surgeon to save our life, we are to receive that help. Or else why would God have given surgeons? I don't see that EMDR is induced by unnatural means. But I don't see it in the Bible. Pray, seek God's will.
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