With my client’s permission, here’s what I did to clear out Multiple Chemical Sensitivities in 8 sessions:
Client: Late 50’s, professional, intelligent, a "highly sensitive person" (Elaine Aron), a good connector, with a supportive husband and a circle of good friends.
Symptoms: Ears would hurt, throat and tongue swell, face turned red, etc., at the slightest whiff of a chemical smell. Couldn’t bear the Sharpie pens I use in doing the genograms for my intake. Had been driven out of a house and away from her family (with whom she gets along). Work, socialization, and many activities impacted. Duration, a few years.
Therapies outside our work: spiritual work, some cognitive restructuring, a great cognitive-oriented couples’ retreat. Helped her frame the situation and gave her hope, though symptoms continued.
What we did:
1. Thorough intake with special foci on attachment hx (checked out mom), generalized anxiety symptoms (lots), and of course, onset & hx of MCS symptoms. We used Maureen Kitchur’s genogram (EMDR Solutions, 2005) intake and had it in front of us during every session.
2. We were a good fit and comfortable with each other. We did safe place, etc. in preparation, and then we were ready for processing. All processing was a mixture of the EMDR standard protocol with some Brainspotting technique thrown it. I set up targets, cognitions, emotions, body sensations, SUD, and then while she held theratappers with continuous stimulation, found the "spot" in her eyes that caused the most blinks, and held the wand there for up to 40 minutes.
3. Two-Hand Interweave: In nearly every session I had asked her to take a moment and tell her immune system to pay attention to its targets. "Put the real enemies, bacteria, viruses, and other bugs in one hand, and hold the benign things your immune system reacts to in the other." (Bilateral stimulation). "Which are the things you need your immune system to fight? . . .What can you chill out around?"
4. Targets: Ala Kitchur, we started with early attachment targets: Looking into mother’s eyes as an infant, a toddler, etc. Lots of distress there. Other childhood targets, most of small "t" traumas, of Mom checking out. Some accidents and other incidents. Dad’s anger. As a highly sensitive child, she was acutely tuned into her parents and surroundings and more impacted than some kids might have been. She was a great subject. Brainspotting/EMDR were great methods for her. She processed quickly, with great insight. Sometimes we used interweaves of bringing in the adult self to hold different younger parts. Often, that wasn’t necessary. We went through her life, clearing relationship issues, and standard events, losses, and distresses of life. Before we ever discussed MCS, her symptoms were about 50% less, in both # of times triggered and intensity.
5. MCS targets: As preparation to do work directly on MCS, we inadvertantly cured it. In our earlier work, the Two-Hand and other suggestions that her immune system relax, it had become personified as an overactive little imp, jumping up and down, wanting to do battle, always "on", hypervigilant. I used Roy Kiessling’s conference room of strengths and positive traits (also in EMDR Solutions) to create "what you will need to solve this problem". We imagined the conference room, we invited, one at a time, whatever traits she thought would help. Strength, wisdom, intuition, sense of humor, and several others walked into the room. What exemplifies each of them? Many of hers were Egyptian gods and goddesses. Each time she named a trait, I had her remember a time that using the trait "worked for you", and installed it with some bilateral stimulation. Then I had her show the hypervigilant immune system imp all of the strong traits, while using bilateral stimulation. I tried to take a break. She said, no. I complied. After a while, about 10 minutes, she said that she was done. She had imagined the "imp" as an Egyptian god that used to get over excited and kill humans. In Egyptian lore, the other gods had gotten together and plied this being with alcohol, making it drunk and happy. It stayed relaxed and stop killing people. She had her conference room of strengths overpower the imp, get him "drunk and happy" and let him quit his job! We did a few rounds of imagining a real bug attacking her, a cold virus, and her immune system calmly rising to the occaision. And a few rounds with triggers that had bothered her in the past, with no distress. I passed an open Sharpie under her nose. No symptoms.
6. Finishing up: Two more sessions, focusing on family of origin triggers, based on current life situations. No MCS symptoms. We reinforced the earlier work with future pacing running into triggers. We gave each other lots of strokes for our good work. She promised that she would come back if the symptoms reappeared. It’s been months. No calls.