Eye Movements and Trauma Therapy

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Treating Trauma With EMDR: Image Credit Hazel Trego

The dream stage of sleep incorporates rapid eye movement and increased activity in the areas of the brain responsible for visual imagery and emotional processing. In recent years, this natural and automatic processing of information has found its way into mainstream psychological therapy for symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

P.T.S.D.’s Devastating Effects

In recent years, the general public has become more aware of the effects of unresolved trauma, particularly since the veterans of the Viet Nam war struggled to readjust to life in American society. Research into valid treatments for survivors of all forms of abuse escalated with recognition that family violence often results in symptoms similar to those experienced by veterans of war.

P.T.S.D. symptoms can include irrational thinking, raging, self-destructive behavior, including all forms of addiction, and dissociative disorders. These problems affect functioning across all areas of the individual’s life and cost society dollars and productivity. Efficient treatment methods are required in order for traumatized  individuals to regain their ability to cope with everyday life; untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can devastate families and careers.

So, how do eye movements help people heal from P.T.S.D.?

Accidental Breakthrough

Francine Shapiro, a psychologist in California, was walking in the park when she noticed that back-and-forth eye movements seemed to decrease negative emotions associated with a specific memory. She tried her theory with other volunteers, and came to the conclusion that the eye movements were an important factor, but most effective when incorporated into a comprehensive therapeutic framework. Fascinated, she conducted research, developed a treatment protocol and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing) training program for other therapists. Today, the technique is used around the world, and research continues into this method of trauma treatment.

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