EMDR: the evidence

Read just some of the latest research on EMDR therapy.

EMDR Therapy was found to be the most cost effective treatment psychological treatment for PTSD using quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) measures.  This study examined 10 interventions and no treatment for adults with PTSD.  Although Trauma-focussed CBT had the most evidence published it only came up 6th best in this review.

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In one of the very few animal experiments ever in psychotherapy and published in Nature (one of the world’s most regarded scientific journals), South Korean scientists explored the impact of alternate bilateral eye movements (ABLS) on the fear responses of mice. The found that ABLS was superior to exposure alone and proposed various mechanisms of action for this. This included that ABLS reduces the fear response to the trauma-reminding stimulus that is generated by the Amygdala.

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Data from this 2018 review examined the evidence of the efficacy of EMDR therapy as a treatment for PTSD. The meta-analysis found EMDR therapy improved PTSD diagnosis, reduced PTSD symptoms, and reduced other trauma-related symptoms. EMDR therapy was evidenced as being more effective than other trauma treatments, and was shown to be an effective therapy when delivered with different cultures.

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De Roos et al. (2017) carried out a study with children aged 8-18 who had developed PTSD after a single traumatic event. They found that EMDR was just as effective as cognitive behavioural writing therapy in reducing PTSD symptoms, and that EMDR reduced the children’s symptoms more quickly. About 92% of children no longer had PTSD after around four sessions of EMDR. They were still free of PTSD one year later.

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Carletto et al. (2016) found that EMDR and relaxation both significantly improved anxiety symptoms, depressive symptoms and mood in patients with MS and PTSD.

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Chen at al. (2015) looked at 11 scientific studies to find out whether EMDR or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) was more effective in treating PTSD. They found that EMDR was more effective overall.

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Chen et al. (2014) looked at 26 scientific studies and concluded that EMDR therapy significantly reduces PTSD symptoms, including depression and anxiety. They found that it is especially effective at reducing patients’ distress.

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