Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

A Need For Change: EMDR Therapy

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If you’re like me, the mention of the tiny, three letter word, flu, can cause your palms to sweat, your stomach to sink and in the worst of moments, your knees to buckle.

The latter happened to me a few years back when the entire country was in pure panic over the Swine Flu.

It was summer when I started to see the newspaper headlines on a friend’s kitchen tables (I’d stopped reading newspapers and watching news programs soon after my daughter’s premature birth).  The bold headlines on the subject caused me a quick physical reaction, but I quickly pushed the fear deep down and pretended I’d never seen a thing in those newspapers.

The fall brought little relief, as the kids lined up after their soccer games and rather than exchange high fives and risk the passing of germs, they pretended to fist-bump while saying , “Good game.”

Still, I was in denial.

It was after one of those games that Andie accidentally picked up another child’s water bottle and took a sip.  I watched as my mild-mannered husband batted the bottle out of her hand and yelled at her in front of the post-game crowd.

“Wow,” my friend said to me, “that really gives me a sense of the fear y’all have been living with throughout these years.”

It wasn’t long after that, that I entered our local grocery store, only to have my eye catch the front page of a Boston newspaper.  A photo of a large hypodermic needle and the big, bold letters across the front page read “Swine Flu…” but before I could read the rest, my knees buckled and I had to hold on to a nearby display rack to keep from falling over.

“I can’t live this way anymore,” I hissed at myself.  Then I stood up straighter, pulled my shoulders back and said it again.  “I can’t live this way anymore.”

I turned around and left the store, dialing the phone number of my friend from the soccer field.  When I asked if she could help me find a good therapist (she works as a grief counselor) she suggested I look into EMDR therapy.

And I did.

EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy is designed to help those battling the effects of trauma or PTSD.  The idea is to overcome the triggers that induce stressful reactions.  I’m hardly an expert to speak on the subject and have a bit of a hard time explaining how or why it works, but for me, it did.  In my first session I was asked to recall a particularly traumatic event.  I went straight to my daughter’s birth, but the therapist wanted me to get more specific; to remember an exact moment that induced those feelings I had when my knees started to buckle.  I had a lot from which to choose.  Once I’d decided upon one, I focused on that moment and the doctor brought out a long, wide black lamp with a series of little lightbulbs.  She began asking me questions, and I was supposed to follow the lights with my eyes, not moving my head, just my eyes.  But I couldn’t do it.  I felt like a failure that my eyes couldn’t follow a simple pattern of lights, but hard as I tried, they wouldn’t, and I told the doctor so.  She assured me that was not uncommon, and after moving the light aside, put her hands on my knees and utilized some sort of tapping mechanism.  I’m really not sure what happened in that session or the others that followed (my eyes were able to follow the lights after that first session), but the therapists described it best as “moving the trigger memories from short-term to long-term.”  I was in the midst of writing my book and feared that I’d lose important pieces of our story, but she assured me that EMDR does not erase memories, just “moves them to a place where they no can wreak such havoc.”  (This is a video of someone trying EMDR to overcome trigger memories resulting from a car accident.)

After EMDR, I stopped living in perpetual fear, for the most part, anyway.  I think I’ll always deal with anxiety, but after EMDR, I knew my triggers and how to better manage them.  I guess you could say that I still have my sweaty palm, stomach-lurching moments, but I haven’t had one of those knee-buckling moments since.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, you can search for a qualified EMDR therapist in your area Here.

If you do decide to try it, there is one more really important thing I want to mention.  If you do pursue this therapy, know that EMDR is intense.  I was lucky enough to have had a massage appointment the day after my first session, which was invaluable, because in my case, memories continued to emerge even after the appointment.

I scheduled a Reiki appointment after my second session and had a similar experience.  If you do decide to try EMDR, I highly encourage you to make sure you have some type of complimentary support soon after.  Or at least plan on a day of rest.  And don’t be surprised if you head into the therapy thinking you know your triggers, only to find that memories from completely unrelated topics emerge.

I wish you well and if you want to know more about my EMDR experience, leave your questions in the comment section below and I’ll answer them as best I can.


Kasey Mathews About Kasey Mathews

Kasey Mathews (NH) is a mother of two, her son, Tucker born on his due date at an even 8 pounds, and her daughter, Andie born at 25 weeks, weighing 1 pound 11 ounces. Kasey is a writer and author of the memoir, "Preemie: Lessons in Love, Life and Motherhood," in which she openly and honestly writes about her fears and uncertainties as a preemie mom. Kasey considers herself a student in the lessons of everyday life, and regularly observes and finds unexpected meaning in seemingly ordinary events. Her life-lesson stories and much more can be found on her website, www.kaseymathews.com. Follow her on Twitter.


  1. This may make you laugh. Daphne just had a kidney transplant a month ago, so she is immunosuppressed. It’s almost like RSV quarantine, except she is now 4 and very much protests being stuck in the house all day. Saturday was a nice, warm day so we decided to “risk” going to the local frozen yogurt shop. We gave each child some fro-yo and went outside to sit on the benches. Daphne, being 4, decided to put her spoon on the stone bench (public park, remember), then stick it back in her mouth. I screamed so loudly that I silenced the groups of teenagers, kids and parents who were enjoying their frozen treats. It was mortifying. I quietly asked my husband to go get another spoon, but by then everyone probably thought I was insane…

    • Melissa, I feel like I was right there with you. And yes, of course I’m laughing because I totally get the whole absurdity of it all! The thing is, without those insane moments of laughter rather than tears, we probably would go insane. How is Daphne doing? What a journey. Sending lots of healing love to you all! Kasey

  2. Judyne Quimby says:

    I think, feel that coming across your post here, Kasey, is perfect timing for me.
    A week from today, Apr 15th is my daughters’s 14 th birthday, on Apr 22.
    She was born a micro preemie at 27 weeks. I KNOW that as a result of her birth, the pregnancy, that I have PTSD, for all the same reasons you posted here and more!
    I have never found a healing therapy modality that I felt fit my needs and or that I had a recommendation for…until your post here.
    So thank you! I will look into this and yes make sure that I have complementary modalities to assist my whole being!
    With gratitude from one preemie mom to another!

  3. I just started EMDR, too. ANd it is amazing. I never did the thing with the lights, though. My person uses these vibrating, buzzing paddles that you can either hold in your hands (or if you are a hand talker), you can put them under your thighs. I don’t know why it is working, but it is. The idea is that you replace a negative thought, for example: “I suck” with a new, more positive thought, like: “I am a writer.” Or “I’m good in a crisis.” Or “I’m a good person.” Or whatever your thought may be. It’s incredible how we have the ability to reprogram our brains. I KNOW it sounds whack-a-ddoodle, but the science supports this stuff. And if you have had a trauma — or any kind of anxiety — it can really help.

  4. michele says:

    I had a number of traumatic events happen to me in a very short time, the worst being a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, where I lost my first long-awaited baby and almost died myself. A few years later i had twins but was still suffering; it was still so fresh and painful. I finally found a therapist that could relate to my experiences and she did EMDR with me. It was amazing how I finally felt the horrible weight lift off my shoulders that day. “Lighter” is how I describe it. She also helped me reevaluate the negative feelings about my body after having my twins at 29wks. I highly recommend EMDR!


  1. […] posted today over on the Preemie Babies 101 Website. Please know that EMDR is not just for parents of premature babies.  EMDR is wonderful resource […]

  2. […] from PTSD.  Posttraumatic Stress is very common among preemie parents. (Resources to help – EMDR, Support groups, Peer to Peer support through Hand to Hold, therapy, […]

  3. […] from PTSD.  Posttraumatic Stress is very common among preemie parents. (Resources to help – EMDR, Support groups, Peer to Peer support through Hand to Hold, therapy, […]

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