What is the Evidence Base for EMDR?

The evidence base for the effectiveness and efficiency of EMDR, in particular for treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and trauma related problems, is extremely strong. 

As such EMDR is acknowledged as effective in the treatment of PTSD by The UK DOH National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) March 2005 in the Guidelines for the Management of PTSD. Also, independent reviewers for the American Psychological Association (APA), who placed EMDR on a list of “Empirically Validated Treatments” for civilian PTSD (Chambless et al 1998).

It has been designated an effective psychotherapy for PTSD in the practice guidelines of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (Chemtob et al 2000, Shalev et al 2000).

In research terms, the most powerful method of ascertaining the effectiveness of procedures is through what are called “Randomised Controlled Trials” (RCTs). Currently there are over 25 RCTs on EMDR and PTSD, which is a considerable outcome research base in a relatively short period of years since the seminal papers on EMDR in 1989, and represents a considerably greater research interest in this area than in any other single approach whether psychological or pharmacological to PTSD.

In the main, these RCTs demonstrate superiority for EMDR against its comparisons. For those interested in the outcome research on EMDR and all issues and debates around EMDR, an entire issue of the “Journal of Clinical Psychology” (American – published by Wiley), 2002 volume 58 no. 1, is devoted to EMDR. Another research resource is the website www.emdr-europe.org, research section.

The consensus from all of this research to date is that EMDR and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy are the only effective psychological treatments for PTSD, and that they are roughly equal in effectiveness (with a slight to superiority for intrusions for EMDR), but that EMDR treatment is considerably more rapid.