Childhood abuse victims given light therapy

Image caption,
Patients normally have eight light therapy treatment sessions

Survivors of childhood abuse are being helped to overcome flashbacks and nightmares by a pioneering light therapy project.

The treatment has been described as "physiotherapy for the brain" and is an alternative to more traditional talking therapy.

Patients are able to erase abuse memories by focusing on light or buzzers.

The pilot scheme is being hosted by NHS Forth Valley.

The treatment is being offered at a centre in Larbert, near Falkirk, in conjuction with Open Secret, a charity which works with victims of childhood abuse.

Energy pathways

It has been funded by the Scottish government and has already helped 50 people.

The scheme uses two types of therapy - eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and emotional freedom technique (EMT).

EMDR treatment works by a process known as dual attention stimulation. By focusing on lights or buzzers, clients are able to erase the memory of abuse which often seems to the sufferer to have only recently happened and can trigger distress.

EFT involves gently tapping on a specific point along the body's energy pathways or meridian lines, which research suggests can be very effective in curing phobias and anxiety states.

NHS Forth Valley's head of behavioural psychotherapy, Therese McGoldrick, said victims of childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse often found it difficult to speak about what they had suffered.

But the use of light therapy had already led to "significant improvements" in a number of clients, who are more able to cope with everyday life after they have completed the treatment, she added.

Janine Rennie, chief executive of Open Secret, said: "Sometimes people use drugs and alcohol to help blot out memories. Others may self harm. Many become permanently tired as they are frightened of falling asleep in case they have nightmares.

"We have found that clients who have undergone these therapies are able to move on to learning life skills and self development and care."

The majority of clients are referred through Open Secret's in-care survivor service, but the team is now hoping that people will self-refer to Open Secret once they hear about the project, which is open to anyone in Scotland.

Treatment usually begins within six weeks of referral and involves an assessment and up to eight treatment sessions.

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