By: Kirby Conda Illustration by: Tyler Shultz
Would you ever have thought trauma could be eradicated through mindful eye movements? Literally—the shifting of the eyes, when directed properly by a mental health professional trained or certified, is a cutting-edge technique used in therapy settings to help heal patients who have experienced significant mental trauma.
While it might sound too good to be true, EMDR psychotherapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) was actually designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories.
Here in our community, there are just two Certified EMDR Therapists through the EMDR International Association. Jinnelle V. Powell is one of the two, as well as an EMDRIA Consultant in Training for EMDR trained therapists seeking certification.
Powell’s path to professional counseling started at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, where she initially thought she would study to become an actress. Powell double-majored in sociology, following an innate passion for people. It would later become the foundation on which she built her first career working for Child Protective Services (CPS), and ultimately the beginnings of starting her own practice. Powell’s work with CPS inspired her to go for her Master’s degree to further pursue counseling. But as soon as she started the program, she lost her sister to suicide.
Powell was going to traditional therapy to help cope with the loss of her sister when her mother heard about a doctor in town, Dr. Frederick Capps, who specialized in EMDR. Her mother convinced Powell to go, and it began to change her life.
EMDR is the reduction of the symptoms brought on by trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, or a tragedy that elicits emotional and mental turmoil. With EMDR, unlike hypnosis, the patient is completely awake, present, and aware of the whole process.
Using eye movement desensitization, Powell and her mother were able to move through the pain of their loss, so that the memories of her no longer bring up an emotional response, which is known as reprocessing.
How easy or difficult it is for a patient to ground themselves prior to embarking on the EMDR process directly relates to how quickly EMDR can work. Known as the “dissociative experience scale,” this initial grounding work is the first step in preparing a patient for EMDR psychotherapy. Then, the therapist begins directed lateral eye movements. The back-and-forth external stimulus is what triggers certain memories, and once they reach the surface, Powell helps her patients to reframe the thoughts they associate with any given trauma.
Powell has developed her own private practice and hires associate counselors who are eligible to receive a scholarship created in her sister’s name. The associate counselors in her practice are essentially interning, and therefore can offer services at a reduced cost. This reduced cost program allows her practice to expand the mental health services—which are few and far between in the state of Texas—to a wider population of the community.
Powell is passionate about the work she does and about helping people, no matter their walk of life, to find healing through EMDR just like she did.