Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: An Analysis of a Controversial Evidence Based Treatment

Patrick Rafferty

Abstract


Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is an inventive, popular and highly controversial treatment. Within the scientific and professional community, there is divergent support for each side of this debate. The heart of this controversy critically examines the question of whether EMDR is as efficacious as other well-established interventions for the treatment of PTSD. The efficacy of EMDR could be due to its employment of a variety of clinically sound therapeutic procedures, such as those similar or the same as Prolonged Exposure Therapy, and not because of its centerpiece eye-movements. Indeed, some researchers have argued that the eye-movements are completely unnecessary and that EMDR is best understood as an exposure technique (Renfrey & Spates, 1994; Davidson & Parker, 2001; Lohr, Lilienfeld, Tolin & Herbert, 1999). EMDR may be an effective treatment for non-combat related PTSD but is not effective for PTSD etiologically related to combat induced trauma. Thus there are three questions that serve as the focus of this evaluation: is EMDR qualitatively different than Prolonged Exposure Therapy; are the eye-movements necessary for treatment efficacy; and is EMDR effective for combat-related PTSD?

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References


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