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Description: Have you heard of E.M.D.R. therapy? It stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy. This is an unfair oversimplification, but it involves a patient thinking of a past traumatic event while guided by a therapist to engage in some form of bilateral stimulation such as following the therapist’s finger moving from side to side. The idea is that the bilateral stimulation keeps the client grounded in the here and now and, over sessions, leeches some of the intense emotion out of the memory of the traumatic event. Sounds rather amazing, right? Does it work? Many people swear by it. IS there research supporting its claims? Well, more than there once was but is it compelling? THAT is the question. Have a read through the linked article for an overview of the current research and practice using E.M.D.R. to see where it is at currently.

Source: ‘One Foot in the Present, One Foot in the Past:’ Understanding E.M.D.R. Dani Blum, The New York Times.

Date: September 19, 2022

Image by teeveesee from Pixabay

Article Link:

The theory of why E.M.D.R. works (if it works) is compelling and fits with a lot of what is available on the impact of stress and stressful events on our vigilance systems. A traumatic experience could tip our vigilance systems into overdrive, making it very hard to react/respond reasonably in the here and now. Thongs that would help people stay in the here and now in the face of a traumatic memory that is driving currently excessive vigilance could be a helpful thing, right? Makes sense on its face and many clients and therapists report success when applying it but, is the research in hand sufficient to declare it a scientifically grounded treatment for trauma? Well, the research noted in the linked article suggests we are getting closer but we may not be all the way there yet. More research is needed but the treatment seems very promising.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is E.M.D.R. therapy?
  2. What are the theoretic claims being made by E.M.D.R practitioners?
  3. What sorts of research could/should be done to further explore the process and impacts of E.M.D.R. therapy and what is needed for us to be able to say it is a proven treatment for trauma?

References (Read Further):

APA (2022) Cognitive Processing Therapy. Link

Powers, M. B., Halpern, J. M., Ferenschak, M. P., Gillihan, S. J., & Foa, E. B. (2010). A meta-analytic review of prolonged exposure for posttraumatic stress disorder. Clinical psychology review, 30(6), 635-641. Link

APA (2022) Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy. Link

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2018) Post-traumatic stress disorder. Link

Cuijpers, P., Veen, S. C. V., Sijbrandij, M., Yoder, W., & Cristea, I. A. (2020). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing for mental health problems: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 49(3), 165-180. Link

Lenferink, L. I. M., Meyerbröker, K., & Boelen, P. A. (2020). PTSD treatment in times of COVID-19: a systematic review of the effects of online EMDR. Psychiatry research, 293, 113438. Link

de Jongh, A., Amann, B. L., Hofmann, A., Farrell, D., & Lee, C. W. (2019). The status of EMDR therapy in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder 30 years after its introduction. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 13(4), 261-269. Link