EMDR therapy has a substantial research base, and more than three dozen randomized controlled studies have evaluated EMDR therapy for the treatment of trauma. Lists of these studies, evaluated clinical applications and research regarding the eye movements are available to view online and download below.
In the most recent VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the Management of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Acute Stress Disorder (Department of Veterans Affairs & Department of Defense, 2017), EMDR therapy was given the highest level of recommendation and placed in the category of three “trauma-focused psychotherapies with the strongest evidence from clinical trials” (p.46). As indicated in the guidelines, “these treatments have been tested in numerous clinical trials, in patients with complex presentations and comorbidities, compared to active control conditions, have long-term follow-up, and have been validated by research teams other than the developers.”
Additional international practice guidelines that have given EMDR therapy the highest level of the recommendation include:
- World Health Organization (WHO, 2013)
- International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS, 2018)
- Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC, 2007, 2013)
- UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE, 2007, 2018)
- Haute Autorité de la Santé (France) (2007)
- Association of the Scientific Medical Societies in Germany (2011)
- Dutch National Steering Committee Guidelines Mental Health Care (2013)
The one outlier is the American Psychological Association (2017) Practice Guidelines. However, there appear to be numerous errors in this evaluation. See: Dominguez, S. K., & Lee, C. W. (2017). Errors in the 2017 APA Clinical Practice Guideline for the Treatment of PTSD: What the Data Actually Says. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 1425.
Click on a tab to access viewable and downloadable PDFs of research lists: (1) Randomized controlled trials evaluating EMDR therapy for trauma/PTSD in adults; (2) Trauma-related randomized controlled trials in children; (3) Randomized studies of hypotheses regarding eye movements; (4) EMDR therapy Evaluated Clinical Applications.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur in both adults and children/adolescents. Untreated PTSD can lead to negative long-term mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, low self-concept, disruptive behaviors, and/or substance use disorders. To prevent these adverse effects, treatment of PTSD is essential. The principal aim of this meta-analysis was to examine the efficacy of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy for PTSD symptoms in adults
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur in both adults and children/adolescents. Untreated PTSD can lead to negative long-term mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, low self-concept, disruptive behaviors, and/or substance use disorders. To prevent these adverse effects, treatment of PTSD is essential, especially in young population due to their greater vulnerability. The principal aim of this meta-analysis was to examine the efficacy of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy for PTSD symptoms in children and adolescents.
Numerous memory researchers have evaluated the eye movements used in EMDR therapy. A recent meta-analysis of the eye movement research has reported positive effects (Lee & Cuijpers, 2013) in both clinical and laboratory trials (see above). It is hypothesized that a number of mechanisms interact synergistically. The following studies have tested specific hypotheses regarding the mechanism of action and found a direct effect on emotional arousal, imagery vividness, attentional flexibility, retrieval, distancing and memory association.
To-date, while numerous randomized controlled studies have supported EMDR therapy’s effectiveness in the treatment of trauma and PTSD across the lifespan, other clinical applications are generally evaluated in case studies or open trials and are in need of further investigation. In addition to the studies reviewed in Chapter 12, this section provides an overview of a range of published clinical cases.
Another excellent resource is the Francine Shapiro Library (FSL) created by Barbara Hensley, Ed.D., and hosted by the EMDR International Association. It is a compendium of scholarly articles and other significant publications related to the Adaptive Information Processing model and EMDR therapy.
You will also find helpful information about emerging research through the EMDR Research Foundation’s newsletters, which can be accessed here.
Since the initial efficacy study (Shapiro, 1989a), positive therapeutic results with EMDR therapy have been reported with a wide range of populations including the following: