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Ukrainian refugees receive therapy to deal with trauma

Posted on: June 15, 2022

When the memories of death and destruction get stuck in the brain, they can cause lifelong disability, sheet-soaking nightmares, anger and hair-trigger tempers.

A trauma workshop set for this June 24 and 25 in Maple Ridge is intended to relieve those symptoms for women who’ve fled the bombs and bullets of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Crystal Arber, a certified therapist, is leading the workshop where about 20 refugees will be participating in the two-day session that will use Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.

The therapy involves having people suffering from post traumatic stress disorder think of a traumatic event they’ve experienced. While doing so for a few minutes, they do some kind of physical activity, such as using a butterfly hug where they hug themselves and then tap their hands. The physical activity is believed to keep the person in the present, thus allowing the reduction of the trauma of the thoughts or memories.

Another variation, and which gives the technique its name, is having a person move the eyes side to side by following a therapist’s hand. That is called bilateral stimulation.

“The BLS, what it seems to do … it calms the amygdala,” the part of the brain responsible for flight or fight.

“It shows that they get very good results, that most people’s symptoms are manageable or completely eliminated,” said Arber.

Initially, she was skeptical of EMDR. But she started using it to help the homeless and drug addicted in the Downtown Eastside.

“I saw dramatic results, even after a few months.”

She also offered a pilot program at the B.C. Operational Stress Injury Clinic in Vancouver to RCMP members and members of the armed forces suffering from PDST.

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