Magic eye cure for children's phobias

10th January 2003 at 00:00
FEARS of dogs, needles, heights, spiders, public speaking and even exam stress can be solved in the blink of an eye.

Seemingly magical and mystical techniques such as rapid-eye movements and tapping on the body's "energy points" really do help tackle children's phobias, educational pyschologists heard.

They help "dilute" the memories of trauma, according to Ruth Coppard, an educational psychologist with Barnsley primary care trust.

"With children, we have used 'eye movement desensitisation reprogramming'

(combining rapid eye movements with other therapies) and 'emotional freeing techniques' (drawing on the principles of acupuncture) to enable children to cope with bereavement and loss, abuse, car accidents, compulsive behaviours and vomiting in school," she said.

"Both these techniques smack of magic and mysticism but are verifiably effective with people who are traumatised or who have some sort of phobia.

"Sometimes memories become fragmented and small events, smells or sensory stimuli can trigger a recurrence of dysfunctional behaviour."

Both techniques assume that traumatic events have not been properly processed by the brain. Eye movements and tapping stimulate the brain's information processing system and, combined with other therapies, allow these memories to be put into context.

The two methods can work quickly, with successes occurring after only one session. Dr Coppard and colleague Charlotte Merriman are also using them to improve pupils' self-esteem.

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