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What is eye movement desensitization treatment?

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Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing treatment is a nontraditional type of psychotherapy that utilizes the patient's rapid eye movements, according to WebMD. Therapists most often use the treatment on patients with post-traumatic stress disorder. Proponents believe that exposing the patient to these eye movements can lessen the trauma surrounding past events.

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A typical session of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing treatment lasts about 90 minutes, WebMD says. The therapist instructs the patient to follow hand movements with his eyes. As the patient follows the hand movements, the therapist asks him to recall a traumatic event. Eventually the therapist

redirects the patient to more pleasant memories. Afterward the patient rates his level of anxiety before and after the treatment.

Mental health professionals don't know exactly how eye movement desensitization and reprocessing treatment works, WebMD reports. Researchers theorize it generates some of the benefit of prolonged exposure therapy, a standard psychotherapy model. Others believe that it empowers patients to control upsetting thoughts, while still more believe the therapy reduces anxiety.

In addition to post-traumatic stress disorder, mental health professionals implement eye movement desensitization and reprocessing treatment for a variety of other conditions, WebMD states. Patients with anxiety, panic attacks, addiction and eating disorders may benefit from the treatment, but as of late 2015, researchers have only studied the benefits of the treatment on post-traumatic stress disorder.

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