Quick REMAP & the full REMAP Process:
A New Form of Psychotherapy
By Hanna Wolter, Dipl. Psych., Dipl. Päd.
“Surprising”, “impressive”, “convincing” – these and similar reactions were uttered by psychotherapists who received a five day training in REMAP (Reed Eye Movement Acupressure Psychotherapy), a new therapeutic method which comes from the USA. REMAP was developed by Steve B. Reed, who himself conducted the training. It can be described as a “sensorimotor emotion regulation therapy”, which uses process-oriented and physical-cognitive methods. REMAP builds on evidence-based acupuncture points, the effectiveness of which has been proven in various studies and research. These points are activated in order to quickly reduce and gradually release anxiety and stress disorders (PTSD, phobias, panic attacks, etc.), long-lasting grief, anger, and general emotional problems. Pre- and posttests have shown impressive results to what extent and how fast positive changes take place.
There are two different psychotherapeutic versions: Quick REMAP and Full REMAP. Quick REMAP starts off with only four acupuncture points, but additional points can be added as needed up to a total of 16 acupuncture points. Quick REMAP can be used with individuals and groups, and can also be applied by clients as a self-help method between therapy sessions.
A vignette: A 31-year-old high school teacher comes in for difficulties in decision-making, low self-esteem, and anxiety in the classroom, all of which are mainly related to problems with disciplining students. She states that in such a classroom situation her SUD (subjective units of distress) level is 9 on a scale of 0 (= no distress) to 10 (= extreme distress). We treat this problem using the four basic acupuncture points. Every point is activated by holding, rubbing, or light tapping. Her distress goes down to a 1 to 2. During the following session, she reports that she pressed the four points just before a difficult class she had to teach, and surprising enough that particular class went very well. She did not have any anxiety and was even able to make use of her students’ input.
During Full REMAP, the most affected acupuncture meridian is identified and all acupuncture points on this meridian are treated. This version is not suitable as a self-help method.
Below is a 2004 video of REMAP developer, Steve B. Reed, treating a woman with the full REMAP process to help her ease anger.
Being a psychoanalyst, I see this method as an asset in multiple ways: If clients come in with high and acute emotional stress, such as anxiety, grief, anger, etc., then analytic or deep psychological work is not possible at all or only with difficulty at that point and time. REMAP, however, brings fast relief in such cases and therefore helps to make psychotherapeutic and analytic work effective (again). The therapist activates the acupuncture points on himself or herself as well, which creates a mirror image and therefore an equal situation. I feel that this helps to build a trusting relationship quickly and therefore benefits the entire psychotherapeutic process.
Therapist and client communication in this work is very meticulous, because the therapist asks constantly whether activating a certain point brings about any change and how it can be qualified (stronger, weaker, neutral). Thereby, the client learns self-observation and self-knowledge by focusing on differentiating physical sensations, thoughts, emotions, images or scenes, sounds, words or sentences. This means that attentiveness, mindfulness and the capability of introspection are enhanced.
Being an analyst, the way “psychological blocks”, or “resistances”, are handled is of particular interest for me. According to my understanding, two processes are working together in this respect: Activating acupuncture points reduces the blood flow to the limbic system, which means that its alarm function is more relaxed, which can be seen in fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans of the brain. This allows the client to look at his/her statements and thoughts, transform them into sentences of self-observation, accept the stress/emotion in these sentences, and express them aloud. This alone is valuable work because it increases not only the client’s acceptance of ambiguity but also his/her self-esteem. Further creative work using simple phrases and statements, resembling formulas but supplemented in collaboration by both client and therapist with personal content, help to develop long-lasting capability to differentiate various sensations, self-efficacy, and autonomy. The content of these statements is related toself-love and self-acceptance, helps the client to realize that his/her personal reality is actually not anymore what his/her intense emotions still reflect, and helps the client to become aware that every human being has a choice to feel or behave in various ways.
This mechanism also seems to be effective when working with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We know now that in traumatic situations the prefrontal cortex turns off, which controls categorization, thinking, and learning, while the amygdala (the limbic system that signals danger) keeps on firing. Fragments of information are stored in the brain and function as triggers, which cause the limbic system, again and again, to react when only one piece of the original traumatic situation is experienced. The problem is, however, that no processing takes place but the same (old) threats are perceived and felt over and over again. If the application of REMAP helps to relax the limbic system (the amygdala) by reducing the blood flow to this area, it appears possible that the prefrontal cortex can continue to function and be reached by specific formula-like phrases (“Even though…, I love and accept myself completely.”). This possibly indicates that the capability to think, learn, and process has then been restored.
Altogether, I see REMAP as a fast and elegant therapeutic method, which can easily be integrated into everyday work with clients. Steve Reed has a major interest in researching its effectiveness and in determining which factors are the most effective ones in his approach. He has trained the first 13 German trainers and explicitly encourages further experimentation and research (and documentation!).
Hanna Wolter is a Psychologist and Jungian Psychoanalyst in Germany.
Translation from German to English by Alexandra Asirvadam, LPC Intern