Science and pseudoscience in the development of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: implications for clinical psychology

Clin Psychol Rev. 2000 Nov;20(8):945-71. doi: 10.1016/s0272-7358(99)00017-3.


The enormous popularity recently achieved by Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) as a treatment for anxiety disorders appears to have greatly outstripped the evidence for its efficacy from controlled research studies. The disparity raises disturbing questions concerning EMDR's aggressive commercial promotion and its rapid acceptance among practitioners. In this article, we: (1) summarize the evidence concerning EMDR's efficacy; (2) describe the dissemination and promotion of EMDR; (3) delineate the features of pseudoscience and explicate their relevance to EMDR; (4) describe the pseudoscientific marketing practices used to promote EMDR; (5) analyze factors contributing to the acceptance of EMDR by professional psychologists; and (6) discuss practical considerations for professional psychologists regarding the adoption of EMDR into professional practice. We argue that EMDR provides an excellent vehicle for illustrating the differences between scientific and pseudoscientific therapeutic techniques. Such distinctions are of critical importance for clinical psychologists who intend to base their practice on the best available research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy
  • Desensitization, Psychologic*
  • Eye Movements*
  • Humans
  • Marketing of Health Services
  • Mass Media
  • Psychology, Clinical / trends*
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Psychotherapy / standards
  • Psychotherapy / trends
  • Quackery*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States