One High River Resident is doing her best to help others who were left with trauma after the 2013 flood.

Kimberley Pohl is a Canadian Certified Counsellor and a Clinical Mental Health Therapist who's decided to open up shop, and focus on healing the community.

Her clinic, Dawn of A New Day Counselling is operating out of the Art and Soul building, where she's making an old Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) therapy new again.

Pohl says Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or EMDR has been around since the 80's where it was predominantly used on veterans who at the time were the only ones thought to have suffered from PTSD.

"EMDR was discovered quite by accident actually, it was Francine Shapiro who developed this. She realized that the rapid eye movement or REM deep sleep is when the body actually starts to heal, and she started using rapid eye movement as a process when we're awake to see if eye movement crossing the boundary of the left and right lobes of our brain had the same effect, and it did."

Called a bilateral sweep, EMDR uses rapid eye movements to trigger the brain to heal what you could consider emotional injury says Pohl.

"After veterans, Shapiro started using this technique on people who suffered abuse and as we go along, now we're seeing PTSD from environmental traumas such as the flood we had here." Pohl adds "It has a big effect, people don't realize that trauma can show itself in so many forms and what we're starting to realize through researching EMDR is that it's highly more effecting for trauma patients than talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy."

EMDR is an eight phase psychological modality that therapists use to treat trauma from life events such as disaster, miscarriages, abuse or addictions.

Pohl says the easiest way to describe it, is by thinking of how your body heals a wound.

"If you keep irritating that wound it's not going to heal, so by using EMDR and going straight to the injured area of the brain you're actually healing that area where trauma sets in (in the hippocampus, the amygdala, the prefrontal cortex and the brain stem)."

Patients will follow either Pohl's hands across their field of vision, a light bar or even hand held buzzers while being asked to remember images of specific events in their lives.

"The eye sweeps are only the physical part of it." explains Pohl "We ask patients to go back to their furthest most memory of where their trauma occurred. We ask them to think of a picture of what happened for instance, in the Flood, and most of the negative cognition that comes back from the flood is "I'm powerless." So we have them picture an image of the flood, close their eyes and start thinking of other times in life, further back, when they felt powerless."

Pohl says clinicians will start with memories that are furthest back and then they'll deal with the emotions associated to those memories.

Desensitizing is when technicians will pull the negative association with the memory and associate it with feeling powerful, or something positive all while eye movement triggers certain physical and biological responses in the brain.

Pohl who was a resident of High River before the 2013 flood, spent some time honing her practice in the United States where she worked with indigenous groups, veterans and victims of abuse. 

She says she decided to come back to High River and practice here so she can advocate for more mental health access in rural communities, end mental health stigma and most importantly wanted to see those in her community and her home, healed.


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