Treatment outcome research in EMDR


Despite a large number of well-controlled studies there continues to be considerable skepticism about the specificity of EMDR's usefulness at a treatment of PTSD. It therefore was gratifying that the National institutes of Mental Health in the USA funded the first study to compare a proven psychological treatment (EMDR) with a proven pharmacological agent, Prozac, and the first to use a pill placebo group. Both Prozac and pill placebo did very well in this study - once again demonstrating the power of the placebo response in PTSD. EMDR did significantly better than the placebo after 8 weeks of treatment. After the end of treatment the EMDR group continued to improve, to the point that six months later 60% of the EMDR was entirely asymptomatic, compared with none in the Prozac group. However, the group with adult onset trauma did markedly better than the childhood onset group. The data on how EMDR differentially affected memory of the trauma give another glimpse into possible modes of action of this treatment. This Plenary will discuss issues of research, treatment outcome, the therapeutic relationship, the Impact of trauma at different levels of development, the nature of traumatic memory, and the emerging understanding of how EMDR may effect its therapeutic action.






Bessel A. van der Kolk

Original Work Citation

van der Kolk, B. A. (2004, September). Treatment outcome research in EMDR. Plenary presented at the 9th EMDR International Association Conference, Montreal, QC



“Treatment outcome research in EMDR,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed November 25, 2020,

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