OEI is an approach to treating trauma that was developed by Rick Bradshaw and Audrey Cook in the mid 1990’s. It involves observing the emotions, thoughts, memories and perceptions that arise while alternately covering each eye, a process that has been found to aid in integration of unprocessed trauma. OEI evolved out of EMDR and draws upon much of the same theory, but is distinct in that there are graduated levels of processing which can be beneficial in that it allows it to be more gentle and gradual.
OEI is based on the theory that when traumatic memories are formed, the overwhelming nature of the event makes it so they are often stored as fragmented “slivers”. What follows are symptoms like flashbacks and feelings of being stuck in what has happened in the past. The process of OEI engages the visual pathways of both hemispheres of the brain so that information is able to flow more smoothly, allowing experiences that were frozen in time to become “unstuck”. Because it works on conscious and non-conscious elements of experience, change can often be rapid and lasting.
The therapy process of OEI involves the client covering or uncovering a single eye at a time while visually following the therapist’s moving fingers. Clients are prompted to pay attention to their inner experience, including any thoughts, feelings, or sensations that may arise. They are also prompted to notice what they observe visually, as often distortions or “glitches” can be indicative of unresolved trauma. As these glitches are cleared and disparate parts of experience are integrated, trauma and related symptoms can begin to resolve themselves.
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