An orienting response model to EMDR


The authors reviewed the literature of EMDR and consulted their own clinical experiences to establish the characteristic phenomenology of EMDR. Dyck's (1993) conditioning model of eye movement desensitization provides a useful account of failure and habituation in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but does not account for some of these common EMDR phenomena. The authors propose an alternative model in which the therapist's waving hand-- in the presence of a trauma-related cortical set-triggers an intense orienting response (OR). Intrinsic effects of the OR facilitate continuing attention to the memory without avoidance, and provide for effective input of new trauma-related information. The person's neuronal model of the trauma alters to reflect their survival and current safety -- as true outcome of the trauma - and associated conditioned responses extinguish. Some proposals for experimental evaluation of the model are described.






Michael S. Armstrong
Kevin Vaughan

Original Work Citation

Armstrong, M. S., & Vaughan, K. (1995, June). An orienting response model to EMDR. Presentation at the EMDR Network Conference, Santa Monica, CA



“An orienting response model to EMDR,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed October 25, 2020,

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