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Norwich therapist’s role in helping those working for Middle East peace

PUBLISHED: 11:34 27 March 2018 | UPDATED: 11:48 27 March 2018

Sue Bayliss at a kibbutz during her visit to Israel and Bethlehem.
Picture: Sue Bayliss.

Sue Bayliss at a kibbutz during her visit to Israel and Bethlehem. Picture: Sue Bayliss.

Archant

Sceptics may find it hard to believe something as seemingly simple as a therapist moving their fingers in front of your eyes can help banish everything from phobias to post traumatic stress disorder.

Sue Bayliss, second right, and her Eye Movement Neurointegration students, Bethlehem.
Picture: Sue Bayliss.Sue Bayliss, second right, and her Eye Movement Neurointegration students, Bethlehem. Picture: Sue Bayliss.

But holistic therapist Sue Bayliss, who is also health and wellbeing’s resident agony aunt, has been successfully treating clients in East Anglia with her Eye Movement Neurointegration (EMN) therapy in this way for some time.

They have included people with everything from phobias about flying, being sick and even escalators to those who have flashbacks and panic attacks after suffering abuse or witnessing traumatic events.

But recently, she was called on to take her therapy to a different kind of setting. And in so doing she fulfilled a long-held ambition.

Sue was invited to go to Israel and the occupied West Bank to train health and community workers in her eye movement therapy by Sami Awad, who lives in Bethlehem and is director of the Holy Land Trust, a Palestinian organisation working for peace in the Middle East. She also did some one-to-one therapy work with trust staff and helped members of a women’s group who were grieving the recent death of a colleague.

She says: “For some years now I have had the goal of wanting to offer my therapy training to people in a place of conflict as it works so well to alleviate suffering due to trauma and when I met Sami (at a peace conference in Portugal) he was immediately positive about the idea of me coming to help his community.”

Sue spent almost two weeks in Bethlehem and Israel, where she also visited a friend living in a kibbutz near Eilat and swam with dolphins in the Red Sea, lay back in the Dead Sea, explored the Arava desert, Jerusalem and Galilee.

She says: “It was an amazing trip, especially since I got to offer my services on a voluntary basis to people in difficult places, which has been a long-cherished dream of mine. It was very hard seeing the effects of this long conflict and some things were worse than I had expected, especially seeing how the violence impacts on people’s lives and the long-lasting trauma it can bring.”

The Holy Land Trust is a non-profit organisation that’s been going since 1998 and was founded on strong principles of non-violence to help end conflict and establish an enduring and comprehensive peace. As well as non-violence its work is also based around leadership and healing to counter a fear of ‘the other’ that has grown up through the trauma of the conflict and past experiences. Its projects are designed to promote mindfulness, compassion and listening without judgement or prejudice.

“My work was part of the ‘healing’ concept as I sought to enable more people to deal with trauma in their communities,” says Sue. “EMN uses particular eye movements to enable limiting beliefs, distressing images and upsetting feelings to be released from the limbic system (or emotional centre) of the brain. A new belief is then installed and relaxation, inner child healing and mindful breathing all play a part in the therapy. It is very effective for any traumatic events, phobias or the effects of any kind of abuse.

“Typically a phobia such as fear of flying only needs one or two sessions to be resolved and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms tend to disappear after the first treatment. It is a holistic therapy I developed, based on the same principles as EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing), a form of psychotherapy commonly used for the treatment of PTSD which is in the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines.

“In Bethlehem I offered two-day training in EMN to Palestinians in association with the Holy Land Trust. The students were psychologists and social workers who work at a local trauma treatment centre called Wings of Hope, as well as a doctor and two managers who were interested in how the trauma treatment works.

“I also went to the Wings of Hope Centre and assisted with a women’s group to help them deal with their grief at the recent death of one of the group facilitators, did some one-to-one therapy with the staff at the Holy Land Trust and interviewed them about their work. One project involves training young women to be community leaders. They also work with an organisation called Combatants for Peace, founded by Palestinians and those who have served in the Israeli army who want to work together for peace.”

The trip also resonated with Norwich-based Sue for personal reasons: her parents met during the Second World War when they were both in the Middle East and spent a few days in Jaffa, on leave.

“I had never been to Israel before and certainly hope that I can return again one day,” she says.

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