EMDR and hypnosis: A theoretical and clinical investigation


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a controversial new treatment for anxiety disorders that is proported to evince rapid and lasting treatment gains. EMDR theorists argue that humans have an innate biological drive to process events and their memories into adaptive and useful forms. Traumatic memories become "stuck" and unprocessed, resulting in a host of psychopathological symptoms. EMDR's curative power rests primarily in the eye movements. Shapiro argues that the eye movements directly access and alter traumatic memories at a neurophysiological level. Memories are then processed down into adaptive forms, with a concomitant abatement of symptoms. Research supports the clinical efficacy of EMDR. However, there is much debate as to the actual mutative element in the EMDR protocol. Support for eye movements playing a curative role is meager and equivocal. This study examines the proposition that the primary mutative component of EMDR is response to suggestion. Specifically, this study proposes that the EMDR treatment protocol is laced with suggestion for improvement. Highly hypnotizable individuals will respond to these suggestions even though EMDR is an explicitly nonhypnotic treatment. That is, subjects will improve to the extent they respond to suggestion. Further, this study tests the viability of Shapiro's eye movement theory. An eye movement condition is compared to an eye fixation condition in terms of treatment outcome. Results indicate a positive correlation between subjects' hypnotizability and treatment outcome. In addition, eye movement conditions were as efficacious as eye fixation conditions where treatment outcome is concerned.






Jonathan E. Whalen

Original Work Citation

Whalen, J. E. (1999, September). EMDR and hypnosis: A theoretical and clinical investigation. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 60(3-B), 1319



“EMDR and hypnosis: A theoretical and clinical investigation,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed May 28, 2020, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/15449.

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