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The EMDR Specialist Helping to Alleviate Pandemic and Protest Fears

[additional-authors]
June 12, 2020
Gary Quinn

In light of the fears surrounding the outbreak of the coronavirus, psychiatrist Gary Quinn, director of the EMDR Institute of Israel, has developed a novel therapy that replaces anxiety-provoking thoughts with positive ones. Called Self-Care Procedure for Coronavirus (SCP-C), the technique ameliorates fears relating to the virus by using bilateral tapping that involves tapping the arms or legs while uttering positive statements. One of the advantages of SCP-C in the era of social distancing is that it doesn’t require physical proximity, and can be done either with a trained practitioner over the phone and eventually by the individuals themselves. 

Quinn has trained more than a thousand people around the world on how to administer SCP-C and it has been translated into more than 10 languages. While no clinical trials have taken place, a control group in Asia found that psychological stress levels decreased by some 90% after doing SCP-C. 

Quinn immigrated to Israel 37 years ago from the United States. He trained in a range of therapies before arriving at EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), an interactive psychotherapy technique often used for victims of trauma or PTSD. The main difference between SCP-C and EMDR is that the latter deals with a past event that causes people disturbance in the present. Coronavirus-related stressors and emotions are characterized by “what ifs?” — i.e. a future event. “Typically, people think, ‘I’m afraid I might get the virus, I might infect others, I’m isolated or I have no money,’ ” Quinn said. Those negative thoughts are associated with guilt, anger, regret and helplessness.  

Some examples of positive statements include, “Being in isolation is being in control of preventing me from being infected or infecting others”; “This pandemic is temporary and will end”; “The vast majority of people recover from the coronavirus.” Quinn said that for most people, the statements may not feel true at first but they are affirmed through the process of SCP-C. 

People are scared the riots could extend to them and they could be in actual physical danger. It’s highly distressing, and people feel helpless and angry.

In the U.S., the feelings of fear, Quinn said, have been exacerbated by the George Floyd protests which, in many cities such as Los Angeles, have taken an ugly turn. “People are scared the riots could extend to them and they could be in actual physical danger,” he said. “It’s highly distressing, and people feel helpless and angry.” 

While the self-care procedure cannot make something true that is false — it won’t, for example, fix someone’s destroyed property — what is true is that a person can learn to deal with it and be in reasonable control of what they can, Quinn said. 

Although it was designed with the coronavirus in mind, the protocol has been adapted by a U.S.-based practitioner trained by Quinn to include sentences addressing racial trauma relating to what Quinn terms the “racism pandemic.” Positive statements include, “In a democracy, we the people can have control of what we can be in control of” and “I can learn how to be part of the solution.” n

For more information and for therapists looking to download the protocol,
visit emdr-israel.org.

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