Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and the anxiety disorders: clinical and research implications of an integrated psychotherapy treatment

J Anxiety Disord. 1999 Jan-Apr;13(1-2):35-67. doi: 10.1016/s0887-6185(98)00038-3.


Four recent, independent, rigorously controlled studies of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) have reported that 84 to 100% of single-trauma victims no longer maintain the posttraumatic stress disorder diagnosis after the equivalent of three 90-minute sessions. The rapidity of EMDR treatment effects makes many ancillary research opportunities available. Specifically, the increased number of cases resolved in a relatively short period of time allows investigation of neurophysiological phenomena, patterns of cognitive and emotional processing, component analyses of a large range of procedural factors, and evaluation of the efficacy of application to diverse clinical populations. Unfortunately, some research has been conducted that has been severely hampered by insufficient treatment fidelity and lack of clinical validity. Consequently, this article will attempt to describe the procedures and protocols that are believed to contribute to EMDR's clinical effects and are, therefore, suggested for the EMDR treatment and research of the anxiety disorders. This is particularly relevant given the misconceptions that have abounded due to the unfortunate naming of the procedure after the eye movements, which have proved to be only one of many useful types of stimulation, and only one of many components of this complex, integrated treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy*
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / standards
  • Desensitization, Psychologic / methods*
  • Desensitization, Psychologic / trends
  • Humans
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy / trends
  • Internal-External Control
  • Life Change Events
  • Memory / physiology
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care / standards
  • Saccades*
  • Self-Assessment
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy