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by Fred Freidberg
New Harbinger, 2001
Review by Anthony Dickinson, Ph.D. on Apr 19th 2002

Do-It-Yourself Eye Movement Techniques for Emotional Healing

The claim championed for Friedberg's Eye Movement Technique (EMT) that it may be used to "rapidly reduce emotional stress and redirect thinking in a positive, rational and optimistic way" (p.2) Perhaps permanently, and without the expense of multiple professional therapy sessions! Although cautious to advise sufferers of recurrent trauma (including PTSD, mood & personality disorders) against self-treatment as a sole pathway to emotional stress relief, Friedberg puts forth a structured set of protocols for self-paced therapeutic implementation. Much of the first half of the book is concerned with the stress, stressors, and the promise of EMT in countering stress-related tension and incapacity. Numerous theories attempting to explain the stress-reducing phenomenon following EMT sessions are too briefly discussed, with varying degrees of plausibility. For the practicing therapist or self-healer this is perhaps not a failing of the book, but I was surprised not to find a section dealing with at least the sensory physiology adjunct to applying EMT, or any discussion of its potential interaction with the psychophysiology of the stress experience it seeks to alleviate. 

In the 5th (‘how to do it’ DIY) chapter, we are introduced to the technique itself in a step-by-step fashion, the reader being led through a series of stages with clearly marked progression or repeat indicants given at each stage. One progression (perhaps surprising to the reader, especially given Friedberg's chosen title) is the suggestion that the use of oscillatory eye movements be abandoned, and replaced instead by finger movements. Indeed, the latter would appear to be Friedberg's preferred method of therapeutic interaction with his own clients (though he still calls it EMT?). This instead uses a distractive flip-flop bimanual tapping his clients' hands or shoulders whilst having them silently ponder on questions reminiscent of the therapy school’s of thought derived from Roget or Ellis.

The latter half of the volume is exclusively devoted to providing case studies and extracts of actual therapy sessions from the author’s own clinical archives. Each of these later chapters deal with specific concerns (phobia, panic, chronic pain, personal and social anxieties) with accompanying procedures being retold amidst success stories, mostly with a positive outcome for the client. The most remarkable and repeated claim, however, is not for EMT providing relief across such a wide range of conditions, but in its speed of efficacy -- often within a single session, without requiring repeated administration.

For those trying to help manage, or those actually suffering from the effects of pre-clinical emotional stress conditions, EMT remains worthy of investigation. I would suggest that EMT (albeit received in the form of oscillatory eye movements or bimanual tapping) might at the very least prove a good vehicle in actively disrupting recurrent ruminations and the often-repeated intrusions into ongoing thought processes familiar to the sufferer of emotional stress. Whether Friedberg’s EMT does any more than merely interrupt worrisome replays by distraction (think here of your own experience of trying to get rid of a tune that keeps “going around in your head”), his own case archive would seem to suggest a high degree of success with the technique(s) as illustrated in this volume. Add it to the therapy bookshelf between Rational Emotive Therapy and Biofeedback.

 

© 2002 Tony Dickinson

 

Dr. A. R. Dickinson, Dept. of Anatomy & Neurobiology, Washington University School of Medicine