New Study Suggests EMDR May Have Multiple Uses
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is probably best known for its use in treating various kinds of traumas, such as PTSD.
But can EMDR help people with other life challenges, such as anxiety, sexual dysfunction and addictions?
According to a paper recently published on psyarxiv.com, the answer appears to be yes. “The findings are promising because they help to illuminate a wider application of EMDR beyond traumatic emotional injuries,” said licensed psychotherapist Lincoln Giesel, a counselor in Chicago who works with mood disorders.
“Having different treatment approaches that are grounded in science is always a good thing,” he added.
Belgium-based human behavior researchers Charles Scelles and Luis Bulnes were curious about the effectiveness of EMDR on a variety of conditions.
To get to the answers, they scoured scientific journals for studies published up to 2020 that contained findings in the use of EMDR for non-trauma related issues, such as PTSD.
What they found was remarkable. Ninety articles revealed that EMDR had a positive effect on conditions such as:
- Somatoform disorders
- Sexual dysfunction
- Eating disorders
- Mood disorders
- Severe stress
- Anxiety disorders
- Performance anxiety
Additionally, their findings pointed to the possible benefits of using EMDR for certain kinds of dementia. The authors shared the following in their paper, “Our review suggests that it is a safe and economical therapeutic option, and its effect in non-pathological situations opens new avenues for translational research.” Scelles and Bulnes go on to state more studies are needed.
Background of EMDR
Introduced to the world of psychotherapy in the late 1980s by Francine Shapiro, EMDR was initially used to treat certain kinds of traumas, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Over the years, the application of EMDR has expanded. It is now used by many clinicians as an adjunct to talk-therapy to treat a variety of conditions, including phobias and chronic pain.
Incorporating bilateral stimulation, EMDR is thought to awaken unprocessed information in the brain’s memory networks. In turn, these unprocessed fragments can be cleared as emotional roadblocks, thereby helping a person get unstuck. In turn, this allows them to move to a place of change.
I spoke to Dr. John Moore, a mental health counselor and editor of this website, about the use of EMDR in psychotherapy. Here’s what he told me:
“It’s probably a good idea to think of EMDR as a tool that can be used by helping professionals as part of a comprehensive approach to psychotherapy.
This is why integrating modalities, such as cognitive behavior therapy with EMDR, may produce the best outcomes. The findings in the paper published on psyarxiv.com seem to suggest this,” Moore said.
Have you tried EMDR? If so, what was your experience? Did you find the experience helpful? Share your comments below.
Scelles, C., & Bulnes, L. (2020, October 9). EMDR as therapy for conditions other than PTSD: a systematic review. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/jyp4e
Moore, J. (2020). EMDR Therapy.