Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is widely used as a psychological treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ( PTSD). Developed by psychologist, Dr. Francine Shapiro, it is used by therapists of many different orientations. As a cognitive behavioral therapist, I have found it fits in well with helping individuals change their thoughts and beliefs about events and things that have happened to them.
In a recent New York Times interview Dr. Shapiro summarized the considerable research around EMDR which mostly concluded that EMDR was an effective treatment for PTSD and more effective than either control groups or groups receiving other forms of therapy.
In comparing EMDR with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy was superior to EMDR on several measures however the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy consisted of many more hours of treatment and daily homework on the part of the client.
When compared to a Behavioral Therapy, exposure therapy, EMDR did about as well and required less exposure and no homework. This may make EMDR more attractive and reduce the drop out rate which can be a problem for exposure type therapies.
In my own experience using EMDR for many years with PTSD and related problems, I have found it to be a useful approach well tolerated by most clients. I sometimes combine EMDR with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and even hypnosis.
While the controversy over what EMDR is, how it works and what are the essential components continue, the evidence continues to accumulate as to its clinical usefulness and for being helpful in treatment other psychological problems.
Like most forms of treatment, effectiveness is likely linked to the experience and skill of the therapist and the type of rapport developed between the client and the therapist. Having a therapist you like and respect and an approach that makes sense to you can go a long way towards a client’s improvement.