Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapeutic technique that Dr. Shapiro developed in 1987. Since then, this therapeutic technique has evolved into a multi faceted approach in treatment of a variety of psychological problems. However, various critics have come forward to criticize the effectiveness of EMDR. For this reason, this paper seeks to evaluate the effectiveness of this technique in treatment of psychological trauma. The paper will involve a review of the existing documented studies with regard to EMDR’s effectiveness. The paper also seeks to develop a theory, with relation to the findings of the previous studies, that approves or disproves the effectiveness of EMDR.
Eye Movement Desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a powerful psychotherapy technique that has been successful in helping patients who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, panic or trauma. Until the discovery of these techniques, these disorders were difficult to treat. This technique uses a natural function of the body (rapid eye movement as its function). The human mind uses rapid eye movement during sleep to help it process the emotional experiences. If the trauma is extreme, this process becomes dysfunctional, and this is where EMDR becomes applicable. It is, therefore, an advanced stage of rapid eye movement (Shapiro, 2001).
When anxiety or traumatic experiences happen, the brain stores them with the sight, sound, feelings as well as thoughts that accompany them. When a person faces severe trauma, the brain is unable to process the experiences as it should in normal conditions. The negative thoughts become trapped in the nervous system. The EMDR unlocks the negative memory in the nervous system and helps the brain to process the experience.
Parker (2009) observes that the evidence of EMDR’s effectiveness is not stronger than the existing theoretical explanation of how EMDR works. While the evidence has the virtue of being consistent, it is mainly anecdotal and vague. Some critics argue that the proponents have not established beyond a reasonable doubt that the technique can achieve any positive effects. They maintain that the changes observed are mainly due to chance, posthypnotic suggestion, placebo effect, patient expectance or other aspects that accompany the EMDR. However, the journal of consulting and clinical Psychology documents a significant improvement in post traumatic stress disorder patients who are treated with EMDR. While the study provides considerable evidence that spontaneous healing cannot explain this improvement, it fails to convince the critics that EMDR is the main causal agent in improvement of post traumatic stress disorder patients.
In a meta-analysis to evaluate the effectiveness of EMDR, 34 studies that examined the technique with a variety of populations and measures were instituted. The studies involved a separate examination of the process and outcome. In comparison with no treatment and other non-exposure therapies, the EMDR showed a positive effect. However, the researchers did not notice any difference between the EMDR and other exposure therapies. They noted that EMDR is effective in treatment of non combat post trauma stress disorder. However, other studies that examined such groups of patients did not give a strong support to this finding (Parker, 2009).
In conclusion, upon analysis of the existing data, it appears that EMDR is more effective than the other exposure techniques. The available evidence also suggests that the eye movements integral to the treatment are unnecessary. However, until the researches carry out a study that isolates the eye movement part from other aspects of the technique, the critics will continue to doubt it. The EMDR may be causing cures that benefit many victims of psychological trauma. It may be doing this by helping the victims to restructure their memories. However, the question whether the eye movement is still essential still remains.