Canada’s Syrian Refugee Mental

Health Outreach

Part Four Organizing Mental

Health Relief

An Introduction to AcuDestress as an Unique Answer to What to do About Refugee Mental Health

Part Four

By Brian C. Bailey M.D.

Program founder

The discoverer of a technique to treat the trauma of PTSD which is now called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or EMDR* has in common with Drs. Wen and Smith the  ability to assemble natural phenomena into a workable therapeutic system which works without having to know the details of how it works. Today, some of the best results with PTSD (which generally lacks for results) occurs when the source memory of the traumatic evebt is re-experienced while a therapist has the patient follow his/her finger moving horizontally back and forth. But acceptance was broadly held in abeyance, not because of lack of success but lack of understanding.

  1. *EMDR is an evidence-based therapy for trauma. The method was created by Dr. Francine Shapiro in the 1980s. EMDR therapy follows a structured approach to treating trauma. The treatment brings together Past Memories, Present Triggers, and Future Template.

The essence of an EMDR session involves Identifying a past traumatic event, how the event is “stored” within a client’s mind and body as images, negative beliefs, emotions, and body sensations, Processing the event with a series of bilateral stimulations (eye movements, sounds, or touch) which stimulates the nervous system to “clear” the traumatic energy, followed by Installation of a positive belief, and Closure for every session. EMDR has been used effectively to treat trauma survivors including military veterans, natural disaster survivors, sexual abuse survivors, physical abuse survivors, and others. It’s greatest gift seems to be relief from the intensity with which traumatic events continue to hold victims in the state they experienced during the traumatic event. Following EMDR treatment many people say they are finally able to live fully in the present moment without being held captive by their past.  

                                  by Art Phipps  (RCC, Therapist)

If one can get, that a modicum of rapport a physical manoeuvre like EMDR which happens to reprogram the aspect of the mind which allowed the person to dissociate from the trauma in the first place, one can equally get how people sat in a room in New York City with five ear acupuncture pins in each ear and experienced nothing but the pins doing their work, and were able to regain an equilibrium, to help them go on with their lives. And because it relies on rapport with others undergoing the sane changes, we can now treat 409 people with the sane personnel it would take to treat four people  

The clinician who directs the process, whose services will be covered by OHIP will work with four groups of three facilitators trained to administer the ear acupuncture by NADA trainer Lori Slaunwhite.

They will be able to service possibly four of these groups a day, or about 160 recipients at a time.  This means that AcuDestress will work at ten times the cost efficiency of more traditional one-on-one approaches - organizers of which will be hard put to find the numbers of councellors to perform this task in a one-on-one way in any case.

The time frame is one month.  Some but certainly not all recipients will need psychoactive medicine as an adjunct to their recovery. But the taking of medicine is not a barrier to success of the program as the subcortical areas where ar acupuncture works are not generally where these medications work.  These will be picked up during the process and their mental health picture will be looked at individually. A high degree of success will be anticipated as the ultimate help for the group will come from each other, not the mental health system - which would be overloaded to do so in the first place.


AcuDestress Works Differently

From Other Methods

While methods of psychotherapy differ (there are 450+ methods known  today) the great majority of them, whether used with or without medication, rely on psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s assumption that bringing
past experiences from the unconscious mind to the conscious mind - by using a person’s free will to talk about them. Later, B.F. Skinner at Harvard considered free will an illusion and human action dependent on consequences of previous actions. If the consequences are bad, there is a high chance that the action will not be repeated; if the consequences are good, however, the actions that led to it will become more probable. Skinner called this the principle of reinforcement. Since each of these approaches have therapeutic success, approaches to therapy have been divergent in their approaches, but it has been hard to “think outside the box” when it comes to considering methods which do not rely so heavily on talking to bring about success.

Herbert Benson in the 70‘s introduced the term relaxation response as a scientific alternative for meditation. According to him, relaxation response is the ability of the body to induce decreased activity of muscle and organs. It is an opposite reaction to the fight-or-flight response.With Robert Keith Wallace, he observed that relaxation response reduced metabolism, rate of breathing, heart rate, and brain activity. 
Talk is not eliminated from the equation but the relaxed body and relaxed mind have come to play a larger role. More recently Benson has teamed up with meditation proponent John Kabat-Zinn, who has brought the power on mindfulness to the foreground as a powerful therapeutic adjunct.  Their bodymind approach has no trouble accepting Shapiro’s body-oriented methods, abd has been exploring acupuncture in that light as well, now teaching it to medical professionals at the Benson Henry Mind/Body Institute at Harvard. Therapy has become more successful as a result of the development of mindfulness and the neuroplasticity which emerged as EMDR. 

While Freud and Skinner ad their modern proponents place their attention on the more accessible neocortex layer where talk originates, Benson, Kabat-Zinn, Shapiro, and Michael O. Smith have focused on the effects of neuromodulating methods on the limbic system and the so-called reptilian brain which allow the neocortex to reprogram itself with little help from the outside word.

How AcuDestress differs from  more mind-orientate therapies is seen HERE.

Mind/Body approaches still require a rapport between provider and recipient. In part at least, this is achieved by building on the rapport which develops within the group of recipients with each other. The communication from limbic system to limbic system, called open-loop communication by Emotional Intelligence proponent Daniel Goleman is what we refer to as intuition.
Forty people in a room with ear pins in place is an ideal milieu for open loop communication. What is happening is what Freud and Skinner always wanted to happen - the unconscious being made conscious, but now assisted by a physical agent which wipes out past patterns in favour of new ones the person develops by spontaneous intrapersonal and interpersonal means, essentially, targeting the brain area which can do the most good.

Smith has forbidden his providers from imposing their own preconceived solutions on a mind which is suddenly relearning how to learn itself. We do not expect to need to bridge the language and cultural gap with Syrian refugees because, once talk becomes much less important, the use of language can be reduced to a few instructions or the filling out of a few translated-to-Arabic questionnaires.


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Page 1 Syrian Refugees

Page 2 Add-on Techniques

Page 3 Nutritional Considerations

Page 4 Organizing  Refugee Relief