Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Brigitte in the news!

(for those new to this blog, Brigitte is my wife)

Visiting mental-health volunteers open local eyes about revolutionary treatment for post-traumatic stress

Facilitators from France and America hold workshop for members of Lebanese Psychological Association

By Iman Azzi

Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Volunteers from the self-described mental health equivalent of Doctors Without Borders arrived in Lebanon this week, facilitating a workshop for Lebanese therapists which introduced a post-trauma recovery treatment that relies on the blink of an eye.

The method is called Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), and was discovered in 1987 by Dr. Francine Shapiro. Shapiro noticed that thinking about a disturbing moment prompted her eyes to move more spontaneously. After numerous studies, EMDR has been proved effective for the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder.

"The nice thing about this method is that it is client-centered. The client goes where they need to go ... It allows a person to tap into their healing capacity because sometimes it get stuck," said Peggy Moore, a trainer from the EMDR Institute's Humanitarian Assistance Program (HAP). "It seems to work cross-culturally; we've had to make some tweaks of course."

HAP was established after the deadly 1995 bombing of US government building in Oklahoma City, when several EMDR-trained psychiatrists volunteered to help the victims and it became evident that EMDR trainers needed their own NGO base.

HAP volunteers make up a global network of clinicians who travel anywhere there is a need to stop suffering and prevent the after-effects of trauma and violence. With several branches around the world, HAP professionals have treated people in the aftermath of a major earthquake in Turkey, the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. This is Lebanon's first workshop on EMDR, but it is one that Moore said she has been thinking about for years.

"I've been trying to get this to happen for a long time. This is a dream come true," said Moore, who from her home in New Mexico followed the 2006 summer war on the news and was eager to provide help in any capacity to the Lebanese.

Moore first came to Lebanon in 1961 as a university student from the US state of Missouri, spending her junior year abroad at the American University of Beirut. After a travel ban for American citizens was lifted, Moore returned in 2000 before the current trip.

"I was so angry with my government," Moore said, referring to the US position during the 2006 conflict.

Hoping to be able to help in some small way, she contacted Brigitte Khoury, a clinical psychologist and professor at AUB, to see what could be done. Khoury told her to wait until the violence had ended.

"No one could even think of treatment. We were still in emergency mode," Khoury said. "This [workshop] came at a very good time. Last minute, it all fell into place."

Moore was joined by two facilitators from HAP-France, Pauline Guillerd and Ann DeWailly. The participating members from the Lebanese Psychiatric Association (LPA) were divided into French and English working groups.

Guillard said that during the war, HAP-France raised funds to help civilians on both sides of the border during last summer's war with Israel but was eager to do some on-the-ground training as well.

"A portion of the money went to Israel but most was sent to Lebanon," Guillard said.

Israel has its own HAP branch with therapists trained in EMDR so training was not necessary. "It was important to have an impact on both countries."

The first day of the three-day workshop introduced EMDR to the LPA members, while also setting the stage for a deeper involvement of the process in the coming days.

"Today we were installing a safe place. The process can be very destabilizing so you need to make sure they have a safe place to return to," Guillard said.

The final two days will see the participants learning how to use EMDR as well as experiencing the therapy firsthand.

"There is such a thirst for learning new skills here. Most times we have to travel outside," said Khoury, who studied at Stanford University.

Like the other Lebanese participants, Khoury is new to EMDR but expressed great hope in the application of the method.

In terms of emergency mental care in Lebanon, Khoury admitted there was a shortage that was, sadly, only discovered due to the war. "We realized too little, too late. No single body was prepared for emergency mental health," she said.

"EMDR has been proven to be effective," said Moore. "If we can help people heal then perhaps we can bring a little peace to the world and help individuals bring peace to themselves."