A critical evaluation of current views regarding eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): clarifying points of confusion

J Clin Psychol. 2002 Jan;58(1):77-97. doi: 10.1002/jclp.1130.


EMDR is an active psychological treatment for PTSD that has received widely divergent reactions from the scientific and professional community. This article examines points of confusion in the published literature on EMDR, including the theoretical, empirical, and historical issues around EMDR and placebo effects, exposure procedures, the eye movement component, treatment fidelity issues, and outcome studies. It also examines historical information relevant to the scientific process and charges of "pseudoscience" regarding EMDR. We conclude that the confusion in the literature is due to (a) the lack of an empirically validated model capable of convincingly explaining the effects of the EMDR method, (b) inaccurate and selective reporting of research, (c) some poorly designed empirical studies, (d) inadequate treatment fidelity in some outcome research, and (e) multiple biased or inaccurate reviews by a relatively small group of authors. Reading the original research articles frequently helps to reduce the confusion arising from the research review literature.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Desensitization, Psychologic / methods*
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*