Eye Movement Integration Therapy: The Comprehensive Clinical Guide

By Albeck, Joseph H. | American Journal of Psychotherapy, July 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

Eye Movement Integration Therapy: The Comprehensive Clinical Guide


Albeck, Joseph H., American Journal of Psychotherapy


DANIE BEAULIEU, PH.D: Eye Movement Integration Therapy: The Comprehensive Clinical Guide. Norwalk, CT: Crown House Publishing, 2003, 400 pp., $59.95. ISBN 1904424155

Dr. Beaulieu has written an excellent description of Eye Movement Integration (EMI) therapy, its rationale, how it is different from Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and how one might use EMI for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and related conditions. The book is "intended both as a primer for those who are interested in EMI training and a reference for those who have already completed training (p. 225)." It is written clearly, and should be persuasive for clinicians open to EMFs differences from most cognitively oriented and traditional, verbally based psychotherapies.

The author's enthusiasm for this form of treatment leads her to make claims which sometimes seem excessive to someone, such as myself, trained in psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy, and also medically trained in neurobiology and neurophysiology. For example, in her introduction Dr. Beaulieu says of EMI that "I felt that this therapy to be every bit as important as the advent of penicillin (p.x)." In the context of her introductory chapter, this claim refers to the well-known fact that penicillin was found to be effective long before its mechanism of action was worked out. The author believes that EMI is similarly effective for treating psychological trauma, even though we still lack a definitive scientific understanding of its mechanism of action. I was put off by the grand sweep of that particular analogy and so I delayed reading beyond the book's introduction for quite some time. However, my subsequent careful reading of the body of the text revealed a well-informed, serious and thoughtful presentation of the evidence and rationale for EMFs utilization. The author is clearly a skilled clinician and thoughtful professional. If one discounts the occasional hyperbole, the book offers many useful ideas and suggestions for clinicians interested in learning about this novel approach to the difficult task of helping traumatized individuals.

The author explains that the fundamental difference between EMI and traditional verbal psychotherapies is based upon the pioneering clinical observations of the technique's originators, namely that asking patients to make certain eye movements seem to have therapeutic value for traumatized patients. EMDR utilizes specific eye movements which are different from those employed in EMI, but both types of eye movements reportedly have ameliorative effects on the processing of traumatic memories. Although the basic clinical utility of eye movements remains controversial in some professional circles, for those who accept the evidence for its therapeutic value, specialized techniques and training modalities have been developed, including those clearly described in this book.

The reasonable, but still unproven, explanation for why inducing such eye movements might be useful therapeutically is bolstered by the author's excellent citations from the scientific literature about eye movement abnormalities found in schizophrenia and other psychiatric conditions. Recent neuroanatomical and brain imaging findings that emphasize the role of the amygdala and hippocampus in the processing of memories are also persuasively cited, although the fact that these findings are still more suggestive than conclusive in their implications for clinicians could have been, in my view, emphasized a bit more.

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