Thursday, 25 July 2013

How your Eyes are the Key to Releasing your Past

“It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.”  Wayne Dyer

In the film, Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind, lovers Joel and Clementine (Jim Carey and Kate Winslet) try and erase their memories of each other following a fight.  As you watch the film in reverse, you witness the memories through the perspective of Joel’s unconscious mind as they are erased.  A lot of us might identify with wanting that ‘quick fix’ to dissolve the pain of our past or to get over a distressing ending in our lives.  Trauma does need time to process though being able to quickly detach from past memories and emotional pain is no longer the stuff of movies. 

A new form of treatment “Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing” (EMDR) developed by Francine Shapiro in the 1980’s has been shown to effectively help sufferers of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as well as other Anxiety, phobia and Mood disorders. The effectiveness of EMDR Therapy has been well established as the result of more than 20 randomized controlled studies. The idea of this therapy is to recall the experiences in a safe, comfortable environment, and this helps the individual to realise that they are no longer under threat, which reduces their anxiety and stress.

A Typical EMDR procedure:

1.   The therapist will discuss any expectations with you and what you want to achieve through the treatment. This is often to ensure that desires are realistic and they know how it can benefit them.

2.   The therapist then explains how the procedure will be carried out, and if you give consent, they will begin.

3.   First you are taught a simple breathing exercise to help with anxiety – facing your fears can be very stressful, and it’s important that they is calm and relaxed. A typical breathing exercise here is to breathe in through nose for 7 seconds, and out through the mouth for 11 seconds – this combination is known to trigger neurons in the brain associated with peace and relaxation.

4.   They begin; the therapist moves their finger in front of your eyes, continuing to do so, and you will find that their eyes naturally follow it, and that you get into the rhythm. 

5.   The therapist will then gently ask a question, such as “What was your first experience of ___?” or “How did you react to ____?” to get to the first memory to process. Of course, if they are not comfortable enough to answer, the therapist will not persist and the EMDR will continue regardless.

6.   The therapist then begins processing the memory and asks what you notice on each set of taps or eye movements every 15-30 second intervals. You will typically experience a change in the memories and feelings as the process continues and you feel more relaxed. I describe it as being on a train where the scenery changes but not getting off at any stop. 

7.   Towards the end of the therapy, you will be asked to visualise leaving through a doorway – this symbolises the end of an experience, leaving the memories and the pain behind. 

8.   Once the EMDR is finished, you will do more calming breathing exercises, and you will discuss with the therapist how you felt. Typically, treatment needed is between 2-4 sessions depending on the issue.

There are many variations of the EMDR procedure, including simple eye movements, watching an LED light travel and flash, listening to tones and many more.

Although EMDR is a budding, young method of therapy, it has been shown as very effective and more recent research has shown it to be helpful to sufferers of many things; eating disorders, addictions, OCD, panic attacks and anxiety. It is a safe therapy with no side effects.

Alexandra Bacon is an experienced EMDR Therapist based in the East Midlands. 

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Looking out for Men's Mental Health

“If you add loneliness to depression, you really are in a world of… appalling pain.” – Stephen Fry

Men are beginning to seek more help through their GP's and visit therapists more than they were before.  A stigma still remains however around admitting to suffering from a mental health problem which creates further isolation and often a sense of hopelessness and despair. Suicide rates have shown that men are three to four times more likely to commit suicide than women.  We need to consider why that is, and what we can do to address it.

Possible reasons for higher rates of male suicide include: 

  •     Men are less likely than women to talk about their feelings – they tend to isolate themselves.
  • Men are less likely to seek professional help (e.g. counselling, therapy, medication) than women.
  • Men have higher rates of drug and alcohol misuse than women, and are much more likely to use this to mask their symptoms of depression.
  • They demonstrate their feelings externally (e.g. shouting, getting angry) and close things off internally (e.g. “I’m fine”)
And, above all:
  • Social ideals and pressures of masculinity demands that men “Stay strong” or, here’s a good one, “man up”.

It must be recognised and understood that men too are victims of domestic violence, sexual violence such as rape, and violence and abuse from other men. It is all too overlooked; as a society we often think of women as being more vulnerable to these things, especially the domestic and sexual violence, but this is not the case. It is possible that men simply do not report the incidents as often, because they are maybe embarrassed or ashamed. 

What can we do about this?
Men’s Minds Matter is an organisation that hopes to better raise awareness of male problems and mental health issues, and also to provide support for those and the families of those who are affected. They have been “working closely with other psychologists, professionals and organisations to develop ideas on how to improve the psychological wellbeing of men and boys” says the Director of Men’s Minds Matter, Dr Luke Sullivan. Through this, they have begun The Men’s Institute, which as well as being very useful is another step to recognising that men need this support, as well as women do. 

If would like more information about this matter or no someone who might benefit from it, visit or for resources and support.

Other organisations such as Mind and Time to Change will also be useful, and also Terry Real’s book, “I don't Want to Talk About it: The Secret Legacy of Male Depression” is a very good and helpful read.

Considering visiting your GP or speaking to a Therapist might also help you to start resolving some of your underlying issues and gain more support.  For more information on our services, visit