The use of EMDR with treatment resistant patients suffering from chronic obsessive-compulsive disorder


The use of Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing Therapy in the treatment of trauma and stress is well documented (Shapiro, 2001). Since its inception, several studies documenting the effectiveness of EMDR in the treatment of other mental health issues has also been studied (Parnell, 2006). Bae, Kim, and Ahn’s, (2006) clinical case study demonstrates no success with the use of EMDR to treat patients that developed obsessive-compulsive disorder after being diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder. Their article suggests little research in support of the use of EMDR in the treatment of OCD. This presentation illustrates two case studies of men diagnosed with chronic OCD, and their inability to find relief from their symptoms from both pharmacological and psychotherapeutic interventions. The study illustrates the use of Parnell’s modified EMDR protocol with both patients, and the importance of identifying and resolving feeder memories. Patient A is a male who was diagnosed with OCD twenty years ago. He has received both psychotherapy and psychiatric services from a major university hospital since being diagnosed. Part of the obsessive thoughts include shouting obscenities at his congregation, committing violent acts towards members of the parish, and ultimately jumping over a choir railing with the goal of killing himself. Patient A began psychotherapy using the Parnell’s modified protocol of EMDR. The patient was able to tap into core (feeder) memories from childhood where he violated trust and confidence with a friend that had not been fully resolved. This also connected with security issues with his mother, which eventually were completely resolved through EMDR. The patient’s obsessive thoughts ceased. The patient has been free of these obsessive thoughts post therapy for one year. Patient B sought therapy for compulsive behaviors related to exposing himself to unsuspecting victims. Additionally, this patient also engaged in compulsive masturbation behaviors for eight to ten hours a day. His actions not only were psychologically distressing to him, but also causing him problems with the local authorities. Patient B had sought psychotherapy and psychiatric services in the past on several occasions, but with no improvement. Patient B demonstrated radical improvement using Parnell’s modified EMDR protocol. The patient identified feeder memories that were not initially discussed during the assessment phase. After successful processing, patient B has not engaged in any inappropriate sexual behaviors or compulsive masturbation for three months. While psychodynamic principles rooted in experiences of life are not novel or innovative in the practice of psychotherapy, often therapists will focus on reducing the problematic symptoms accompanying a diagnosis of OCD, without considering the full implication of prior experiences. Continuing advances in the application of EMDR with an ever expanding array of mental and emotional disorders requires researchers to consider the importance of identifying feeder memories as a possible source of problematic symptoms. These results offer promising techniques for EMDR therapists, and new avenues in research exploring the efficacy of EMDR and OCD. This presentation will illustrate the process involved in identifying feeder memories.






K. L. Allemagne

Original Work Citation

Allemagne, K. L. (2009, August). The use of EMDR with treatment resistant patients suffering from chronic obsessive-compulsive disorder. Poster presented at the 14th EMDR International Association Conference, Atlanta, GA



“The use of EMDR with treatment resistant patients suffering from chronic obsessive-compulsive disorder,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed July 14, 2020,

Output Formats