Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming (EMDR)

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming (EMDR) is based on the idea that the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) that happens during the dreaming phase of sleep causes our brains to process unresolved emotions. The therapy attempts to resolve emotional trauma by inducing the same healing mechanism while conscious in the therapist's office.

The therapist asks you to rate how anxious you feel about a situation that troubles you, then waves something in front of your eyes for several minutes while you focus on it, allowing your eyes to dart from side to side rapidly. At the end, they ask you to rate it again. Normally the rating goes down.

Some therapists use other parts of the body than the eyes, and claim it's just as effective or even more so. It sounds a little hocus-pocus, but even mainstream therapists like Dr Paul Dobransky describe it as “extremely powerful”. Often used as an adjunct to other therapies.


  • Fast and simple

  • No need to tell the story or relive the traumatic situation

  • Easy to administer


  • Considered unscientific by some

  • May be a placebo treatment

  • You may be unconsciously tempted to rate the situation as less troubling simply because you want to please the therapist

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By Graham Stoney, ago