Benefits of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, or EMDR, include relieving the anxiety and negative emotions of patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, reports WebMD. Practitioners also use EMDR to treat addictions, eating disorders, panic attacks and various forms of social stress. Research indicates no negative side effects of the therapy as of 2015.
EMDR sessions use the rapid eye movements of patients to relieve traumatic memories of their emotional impact, explains WebMD. Therapists move their fingers back and forth, instructing the patient to follow the fingers visually while recalling the sensations and emotions of past traumatic events. Eventually, therapists guide the patients back to pleasant memories. Although patients do not forget their traumas after treatment, they often find them less disturbing and disabling.
Researchers do not agree on how EMDR therapy works, according to Scientific American. Although some experts argue that the traditional psychiatric techniques of recalling and processing disturbing memories makes the therapy effective, studies show that the eye movements play a significant role in reduction of distress, possibly by reducing the vividness of the memories. The U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the American Psychiatric Association and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies all consider EMDR a valid and effective therapy.