Not only Americans who survived the recent devastating superstorm Sandy have
suffered emotional trauma – many of those who came recently on aliya from the US
northeast and left relatives behind or who are living here temporarily, are
still in the throes of the storm’s destruction.
Dr. Judith Guedalia,
director of the neuropsychology unit and chief psychologist at Jerusalem’s
Shaare Zedek Medical Center, noted that Sandy caused emotional damage from afar
and has offered to help.
“I myself,” she said, “was evacuated from
Atlantic Beach, Long Island, and experienced the challenges of no electricity
and heat since that Monday [of the storm]. Fortunately, I was able to return
home on El Al not long after JFK [John F. Kennedy International] Airport in New
Realizing that people in Israel were also stressed by
the storm, Guedalia contacted the heads of the Jerusalem EMDR Institute, Drs.
Gary Quinn and Dani Kahn, and clinical psychologist Dr. Phyllis Strauss, who
agreed to hold a call-in service to set up appointments to help persons who were
themselves affected by Sandy and its aftermath, either because they were there
or their families still are.
“I think there are a lot of people who are
without water and electricity for weeks already. We have in our unit a social
work student from Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work, and she
told me she was also traumatized. The farther away you are from your home, the
more terrible things you imagine. Some have returned to destroyed homes,” said
Volunteer Israeli-licensed and certified EMDR therapists will
see them. “We are making appointments for people who call the neuropsychology
units at (02) 666- 6682. We already have the volunteer therapists lined up,”
said Guedalia, who is also a certified EMDR therapist.
EMDR stands for
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, a proven psychological
intervention for trauma and stress reduction. It was developed 30 years ago by
Dr. Francine Shapiro to deal with trauma-related disorders caused by exposure to
distressing, traumatizing and negative life events. The goal of EMDR therapy is
to process these distressing memories, reduce their lingering influence and
allow clients to develop more adaptive coping mechanisms. In recent years, it
has been expanded to bilateral stimulation by touch, in addition to eye
The American Psychiatric Association has recognized EMDR as
effective for treating symptoms of acute and chronic Post-traumatic Stress
Disorder. According to the APA, EMDR may be particularly useful for people who
have trouble talking about the traumatic events they have experienced. It has
been shown to reduce anxiety, enabling patients to better take control of their
upsetting thoughts. It has been approved by the National Insurance Institute for
treatment of acute stress and trauma.