A recent newspaper article highlighted the very sad case of a young man who committed suicide some while after returning home from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. A terrible tragedy for this young serviceman, his family, friends and comrades, compounded by the fact that it appears he didn’t have access to the help he needed. There is, of course, no way of knowing whether therapeutic assistance would have helped him deal with the traumas he was going through. But, the evidence does show that therapy can play a tremendous role in helping people recover from even the most profound traumas.
The Ministry of Defence has said in a statement “The mental health of service personnel is a top priority”. But, I’ve often wondered whether service personnel know that in addition to formal therapeutic provision (which may not always be as readily available as we all might wish) there is a network of trained and registered psychotherapists who offer some of their time at reduced cost (indeed some will even offer therapy for no fee) to anyone who is serving, or has served, in the forces. The offer also extends to the partners, adult dependants, and parents of current and ex-service personnel. Details of this service can be found at: http://www.thelongboathome.co.uk/
One very effective way of working with the aftermath of trauma is Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing – or EMDR for short. EMDR was developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro in the 1980s. Since then it has developed a truly impressive research base which shows its effectiveness in treating psychological trauma arising from experiences as diverse as war-related experiences, natural disasters, assault, surgical trauma, road traffic accidents, sexual and/or physical abuse or neglect, and workplace accidents. It has also shown its effectiveness in treating phobias, anxiety, and fears around public speaking to name a few (more details can be found at: http://www.emdrassociation.org.uk/home/index.htm).
The process of EMDR rests on the incredible observation by Francine Shapiro that holding a distressing thought in mind whilst performing rapid eye movements, which your therapist shows you how to do, leads to the distressing thought becoming less and less disturbing, until eventually the traumatic experience becomes adaptively resolved. [Eye movements are the standard way of doing EMDR, but there are other equally successful ways of achieving the desired results for those who cannot perform the eye movements.] Accredited EMDR training is only available to suitably qualified therapists (such as UKCP or BACP registered psychotherapists and counselors). There are plenty of films of YouTube claiming to show EMDR in action. Sadly many of these bear little relationship to actual EMDR. The most helpful films, albeit consisting only of text and a voice over, are available at: http://www.emdrassociation.org.uk/home/EMDR_videos.htm
I am two-thirds the way through my accredited EMDR training and finding it more and more useful in my practice for treating a wide variety of issues. I particularly value the fact that EMDR fits really well with my main approach of hypnotherapy. Together the two approaches offer genuine possibilities for resolving even long-standing issues.
Importantly, psychotherapy is not just for people who have experienced life-threatening trauma. Therapy can also be of huge assistance even when life is generally okay or even good, except for that one issue that stumps us (whether it’s battling with a weight issue, premature ejaculation, fear of public speaking or indeed any of the countless human issues that so many of us face).
So, if you know someone who is struggling to live with the memories of deep trauma, or just struggling with a life issue, you can let them know they don’t have to struggle on in isolation. Confidential and professional help is available.