EMDR and the lessons from neuroscience research


Until recently we had little knowledge how to help people integrate such disintegrated traumatic imprints. Traditionally, before the advent of contemporary methods of treatment outcome evaluation, many clinicians, from Pierre Janet to Milton Erikson and his followers, considered hypnosis to be the treatment of choice. Unfortunately the efficacy of hypnosis for the treatment of PTSD was never systematically studied. EMDR was the first of a group of new therapies that did not primarily rely on speaking about one’s traumatic experiences, but that claimed to be able to rapidly and effectively integrate traumatic memories by asking PTSD subjects to focus intensely on the emotions, sensations and meaning of the traumatic experience, while asking to follow the hand of a clinician who induces slow saccadic eye movements. EMDR had a number of advantages over hypnosis, including the fact that it could easily be put into a treatment protocol. This makes it relatively easy to conduct treatment outcome research. Since it was first articulated by Francine Shapiro, around 1988, it has received intense scientific scrutiny and has been found to be quite an effective treatment of PTSD (e.g. Chemtob et. al, 2000), even though the specific role of eye movements in its therapeutic action remains controversial.






Bessel A. van der Kolk

Original Work Citation

van der Kolk, B. A. (2003, June). EMDR and the lessons from neuroscience research. Plenary presented at the 4th EMDR Europe Association Conference, Rome Italy



“EMDR and the lessons from neuroscience research,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed November 25, 2020, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/18217.

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