25 years of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): The EMDR therapy protocol, hypotheses of its mechanism of action and a systematic review of its efficacy in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder

Rev Psiquiatr Salud Ment (Engl Ed). 2018 Apr-Jun;11(2):101-114. doi: 10.1016/j.rpsm.2015.12.002. Epub 2016 Feb 11.
[Article in English, Spanish]


Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a relatively new psychotherapy that has gradually gained popularity for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. In the present work, the standardised EMDR protocol is introduced, along with current hypotheses of its mechanism of action, as well as a critical review of the available literature on its clinical effectiveness in adult post-traumatic stress disorder. A systematic review of the published literature was performed using PubMed and PsycINFO databases with the keywords «eye movement desensitization and reprocessing» and «post-traumatic stress disorder» and its abbreviations «EMDR» and «PTSD». Fifteen randomised controlled trials of good methodological quality were selected. These studies compared EMDR with unspecific interventions, waiting lists, or specific therapies. Overall, the results of these studies suggest that EMDR is a useful, evidence-based tool for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, in line with recent recommendations from different international health organisations.

Keywords: Desensibilización y reprocesamiento por movimiento ocular; Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing; Mecanismo de acción; Mechanism of action; Posttraumatic stress disorder; Psicoterapia; Psychotherapy; Revisión sistemática; Systematic review; Trastorno por estrés postraumático.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing* / methods
  • Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing* / standards
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome