Therapists trained to provide eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy have a global responsibility. This article summarizes the multiple impacts of high stress events, and their long-term effects on individuals, families, communities, and nations. While it is well documented that EMDR treatment will remediate the individual symptoms of posttraumatic stress, research is still needed to determine how far-reaching such outcomes are. Future studies should determine whether treatment reverses the neurobiological changes, cognitive deficits, and affective dysregulation, which are associated with exposure to traumatic events. Research should also investigate whether successful treatment decreases high-risk and/or perpetrator behavior, and whether these effects are translated into behavioral and attitudinal changes sufficient to bring an end to intergenerational trauma and ethnopolitical conflicts. It seems self-evident that the ideal way to address pressing societal needs, on both local and global levels, is by the integration of science and practice. The article also discusses the development of nonprofit EMDR humanitarian assistance programs, and their essential work in the alleviation of suffering around the world. In addition to recommending the examination of EMDR's efficacy in treating traumatization from direct, natural, structural, and cultural causes, this article advocates that research resources be dedicated for testing interventions in the areas of the world with the greatest needs. The alleviation of suffering is the duty of our profession.
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EMDR Therapy Humanitarian Assistance Programs: Treating the Psychological, Physical, and Societal Effects of Adverse Experiences Worldwide
The negative effects of trauma and other adverse life experiences have been shown to interfere with individual, family, and societal functioning. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is empirically supported and recommended as a frontline treatment for psychological trauma in numerous practice guidelines. It provides both effective and efficient treatment without the need for detailed descriptions of the disturbing event or homework. This allows field teams to provide culturally sensitive therapy on consecutive days for those in remote areas and in crisis situations. Humanitarian assistance organizations have conducted projects internationally to provide EMDR therapy after both natural and manmade disasters and have helped develop sustainable mental health resources worldwide. This brief introduction provides an overview of current programs, treatment rationale, and a call for future action.