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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Training in a new therapy touted to cut recovery time for U.S. troops suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder will be brought to the Pacific for the first time next month.

The therapy — Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing — allows troops to tackle trauma in brief sequential doses while moving their eyes back and forth. Positive imagery is introduced and reinforced during the eye movement, and eventually replaces the trauma in eight sessions, according to the EMDR Web site.

It is not a “homework-intensive” approach, nor does EMDR require patients to relive their trauma over and over, said Naval Air Facility Atsugi’s counseling and advocacy program supervisor Richard Smith, who is organizing a four-day EMDR course for Pacific mental health care providers in March at Yokosuka Naval Base.

“EMDR tends to be fast-acting and does not require [the] client to disclose the details of the painful event,” Smith said. “EMDR is cited for its potential rapidity, efficiency, and well-tolerated treatment effects.”

It is one of four therapies recommended in the 2004 Veterans Affairs/Department of Defense Clinical Practice Guidelines for Management of Traumatic Stress report.

However, many mental health professionals have not been trained in EMDR nor in the top three other methods (cognitive therapy, exposure therapy and stress inoculation), said Cmdr. Mark Russell, a psychologist at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni.

“Out of 133 mental health providers I surveyed, 90 percent of them had no training in the top four treatments the DOD recommends for PTSD,” Russell said in September in a speech given to the Multinational Medical Conference in Yokosuka.

Russell, now the director of educational and development intervention services for the region, is a certified EMDR trainer and will teach the course in Yokosuka before he retires from the Navy.

He worked for EMDR founder Dr. Francine Shapiro as her research assistant and is a “pioneer in the field,” Smith said.

Smith called the training “the chance of the lifetime” as this is the first time EMDR has been offered in the Pacific. The course is open to all licensed health care providers, he said.

At the end of the four days, providers will be able to use EMDR to treat a variety of trauma, including domestic violence, sexual assault or any painful event, he said.

But, as wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue, providers may be called upon to treat more combat-related trauma in those returning to the Pacific, he said.

An Army study cited in the Journal of the American Medical Association said that 35 percent of Iraq war veterans sought mental health services in the year after returning home.

“Given these rates, we need to serve combat veterans as best we can,” Smith said. “In trying to serve people, we can have this therapy readily available for them.”

The four-day basic and advanced course in EMDR runs March 26-29 at Yokosuka Naval Base and costs $100 for materials. Registration is due Feb. 23. Call Smith at DSN 264-4188 for more information.


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