Do our eyes hold the secret to treating some mental illness? Ottawa researchers tout unique psychotherapy
When he first read about a new psychotherapy that used eye movement to help alleviate patients’ trauma, psychologist Philippe Gauvreau was deeply skeptical.
The field was beset by pseudoscientific fads, and he was convinced Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) was just another one. The therapy combines exposure therapy with guided eye movements: Typically, a patient is asked to track a therapist’s hand while thinking about a traumatic event.
Proponents insisted EMDR could change the way difficult memories were stored in the brain, making them easier to manage for those with post-traumatic stress.
“Like many, many, many psychologists, I went, ‘What is this BS?’ This is a bunch of hooey,” remembers Gauvreau, a practitioner in the Outaouais.
He became so exercised by EMDR’s entry into the field of psychotherapy that he resolved to train in the technique so he could more knowledgably dismantle it as a treatment. In October 2000, he enrolled in an EMDR course in Ottawa – and changed his mind.
“I just fell in love with the approach,” he says.