Eye movement desensitization: a new treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder

J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 1989 Sep;20(3):211-7. doi: 10.1016/0005-7916(89)90025-6.


The use of saccadic eye movements for treating post-traumatic stress disorder is described. The procedure involves eliciting from clients sequences of large-magnitude, rhythmic saccadic eye movements while holding in mind the most salient aspect of a traumatic memory. This results in (1) a lasting reduction of anxiety, (2) changes in the cognitive assessment of the memory, and (3) cessation of flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, and sleep disturbances. The procedure can be extremely effective in only one session, as indicated by a previous controlled study and a case history presented here. It does not require a hierarchical approach, as in desensitization, or the elicitation of disturbingly high levels of anxiety over a prolonged period of time, as in flooding. Some speculations are offered concerning the basis for the effectiveness of the procedure.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Arousal
  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Desensitization, Psychologic / methods*
  • Eye Movements*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Mental Recall
  • Middle Aged
  • Rape / psychology
  • Saccades
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*