EMDR Europe Association has shared some thoughts and suggestions with all its members, to reduce stress reactions, enhance information and cognitive processing and promote mental health among individuals and the community.
First of all, good psychoeducation can be based on the official information that is available on institutional websites:
The evident psychological traumatisation has arisen on 2 levels: personal (people directly affected by the disease, their families, and people living in the outbreak areas) and collective (in the identification and in the images that stem from collective distress).
It is important to remember that the crowd is not the result of the sum of the single individuals that form it, but it becomes a sort of an independent superorganism, that has its own identity and will (Le Bon). The individuals can lose their features to gain the crowd’s ones: when a person becomes part of a crowd, they start thinking and acting differently from the way they would if they were alone. Since our clients are already people at risk of psychological distress, they are the first candidates for “feeling” and experiencing anxiety coming from overexposure to mass-media or the interaction with other people in distress.
At a neurological level, there is a switch from the use of our Ventral-Vagal System (level of logical thinking capacities) to the Fight-or-Flight System, where the priority is a defensive action disconnected from the more evolved Ventral-Vagal System. This mechanism is very evident, for instance, in the tendency to stockpile.
Coronavirus has forced people to face vulnerability. But it is important to remember that we can be vulnerable but not helpless, so we can manage stress reactions, fear and other emotions that we are experiencing in this critical event.
It is extremely important for people in general and for our clients to focus on what works in protection of mental health at a clinical level and to foster the stress management capacity.
People react to the situations to which they are exposed to, not only according to the kind of event they are facing, but also according to the previous anxiety or uncertainty conditions that they are living. Being aware of the circumstances means that we should discriminate the presence of previous anxiety situations that might influence people’s perception of the event. In our clients’ case, we will try to analyse what emerges from the “coronavirus phenomenon” on more levels:
- Using the Adaptive Information Processing Model we can understand with the clients what is the basis of their “coronavirus” anxiety; we can do a float back using one of the most distressing moments they lived with coronavirus to understand – through CN, emotions and sensations – where our clients have already experienced similar feelings (which will become targets to be reprocessed).
- Considering the transgenerational aspects of this mass emergency situation: how is our clients’ family reacting? Have they already experienced other collective traumas, directly or through previous generations? These can become targets to reprocess as well.
- Psychoeducation on the difference between risk and danger is extremely important, quoting official sources, highlighting what the clients can do (WHO good practices) to improve a feeling of self-efficacy, and installing those behaviours with EMDR. It is necessary to focus on the good news: 95-97% of the people recovers (rather than focusing on mortality).
- Stabilisation through grounding, breathing exercises, and the safe place.
- Reprocessing of targets related to the worst moments of the “coronavirus phenomenon”.