Psychological Solutions For A Better Life

Eye Movement  Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) has for the last 17 years tickled clinician’s – and client’s – hopes that finally a technique has been found that will help those unfortunate people who suffer from the debilitating symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

 How does it work? In principle, you remember a particularly painful or disturbing incident, make a mental picture of it, and pin this picture on the therapist’s index finger. The therapist then moves his/her finger in front of your face. You follow this movement with your eyes (head remains still) for a certain amount of repetitions. The idea is that after the treatment you have no longer the distressing emotions attached to your memories.

What does the research say? Although EMDR followers have done some research, these studies are not widely accepted due to poor research design (i.e. lack of control studies, lack of evidentiary support of effectiveness).

Taylor and colleagues conducted a Meta analysis (2003, Comparative efficacy, speed, and adverse effects of three PTSD treatments.  Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71, 330-338) conducted a controlled study in which their participants were either assigned to a) exposure treatment, b) relaxation treatment, and c) EMDR. They found that EMDR is as effective as the two other approaches. It shows no more rapidly improvement than the two other approaches and no superiority.

Claiming that EMDR is the golden bullet in trauma therapy is at best wishful thinking. Indeed there is no evidence that it is even especially effective for a specific diagnostic group. Davidson and his colleagues found (2001, Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: A meta-analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 69, 305-316) that EMDR is effective; however, what about the technique is effective has not been able to be demonstrated.

As a strange twist they found that EMDR works even if you don’t do the eye movements, which are the signature strength of the approach! Find out what other sceptics have to say about the issue. ….what is new in EMDR does not appear to be helpful, and what is helpful is what we already know about relaxation, education, and psychotherapy.* Read on here

Comments on: "EMDR: A Magic Wand or a Waste of Your Time?" (3)

  1. Elaine McC. said:

    I tried some EMDR. I wanted to believe in what I now call “Lightning Bolt” therapy. Whazzam, the energy strikes and you’re cured. Eventually read quite a lot myself about it… there does seem to be something about bi-lateral stimulation increasing intensity (of experience/healing/brain integration?). I think it can be problematic in use with traumatic memories, ie overwhelm. I’ve had experience using bi-lateral stimuation to deepen experience of positive parts of self and felt that was very useful.

  2. Im sorry but I kept trying to imagin myself doing this, and couldnt help but laugh, My eyes dont go in the same direction at the best of times, but the laughter of trying to achieve this certainly will cure my depression.

  3. Elaine McC. said:

    Oh too true… googly eyes. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Any old cross-over of the body’s mid-line such as patting opposite knees will do. Occupational therapists use it in rehab programmes and best of all lots of children’s games (Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake baker’s man) include these movements. Everything old (and natural) is new again.

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