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Page last updated at 14:37 GMT, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 15:37 UK
Therapy hope for trauma victims
Eye Movement Therapy

Eye Movement Therapy

A new treatment for trauma is offering hope to victims and witnesses of sexual abuse, bullying and accidents.

Therapists claim they've had great success treating people by simply asking them to focus on a finger placed in front of the face.

It has been used to help some of those affected by the 11 September attacks, rail disasters and a Suffolk woman who witnessed a road accident.

However, no-one knows for certain exactly how or why it works.

Astonishing results

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy was first developed in the USA and brought to Britain in 1991 by Dr John Spector, a clinical psychologist at Watford General Hospital.

He saw astonishing results with his patients who had problems ranging from nightmares, flashbacks and disturbing memories.

Traditional therapies are thought to have little effect on trauma symptoms.

The EMDR therapy appears to work by stimulating connections between the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

The eye movements replicate what happens in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is when information is processed.

In EMDR therapy the eye movements are kept going so the processing of information reaches a resolution.

Finger and eye therapy
Therapy involves moving a finger in front of eyes

Clients are asked to concentrate on an image that represents the trauma. Meanwhile, the therapist moves their finger back and forth about a metre from the client's face.

The process is repeated up to 40 times per session, which lasts about an hour.

At some point in the process the client begins to notice the anxiety feels less disturbing.

Therapist Sue Bayliss has treated everything from fear of spiders to victims of bullying and sexual abuse.

"It is so quick and so kind," she said. "It gives me such joy to see people able to go and make the most of their lives again."

She also trains others in the technique, and wants to see it more widely available.

Vivid flashbacks

Suzanne Gibbons, 40, witnessed a motorbike crash near her home in Lowestoft, Suffolk, where the rider died in her arms.

Her shock turned into post traumatic stress disorder and she was unable to work, drive or sleep.

She tried counselling and anti-depressants but neither helped with the regular and vivid flashbacks she was experiencing.

Then this summer she turned to EMDR therapy, and she said it's changed her life: "When I try and recall the accident now it's as if it's a dream.

"I thought I would have to live with the symptoms of post traumatic stress for the rest of my life.

"It feels as if I have got my life back."

The Inside Out programme will be broadcast on BBC1 at 7.30pm on Monday, 12 October, 2009.


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