The application of EMDR to the treatment of personality disorders


Since its inception in 1987, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) has evolved into an integrated approach to psychotherapy that synthesizes aspects of the major psychological orientations. As such, its comprehensive treatment effects span cognitive, somatic, and affective domains (Shapiro, 2002). Although most widely used to process single or multiple incident traumatic memories, it can be used effectively to treat many conditions. In this chapter, we describe the theoretical foundations of this approach and how it is used to treat personality disorders. A fundamental principle of the Adaptive Information Processing Model is that present disturbance and dysfunctional characteristics have their origins in past events; these antecedents, whether identified or not, can be processed to an adaptive resolution using EMDR. In treating personality disorders, the EMDR approach integrates procedures from many other orientations to stabilize clients and equip them to address their source memories. The accelerated processing of disturbing memories that takes place during EMDR makes it possible for clients to address and resolve their issues relatively rapidly.


Book Section




Philip Manfield
Francine Shapiro

Original Work Citation

Manfield, P., & Shapiro, F. (2003). The application of EMDR to the treatment of personality disorders. In J. F. Magnavita (Ed.), Handbook of Personality Disorders: Theory and Practice (pp. 304-330). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons



“The application of EMDR to the treatment of personality disorders,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed September 25, 2020,

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