How does EMDR work?


Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) is an effective treatment for alleviating trauma symptoms, and the positive effects of this treatment have been scientifically confirmed under well-controlled conditions. This has provided an opportunity to explore how EMDR works. The present paper reports on the findings of a long series of experiments that disproved the hypothesis that eye movements or other ‘dual tasks’ are unnecessary. These experiments also disproved the idea that ‘bilateral stimulation’ is needed; moving the eyes up and down produces the same effect as horizontal eye movement, and so do tasks that require no eye movement at all. However, it is important that the dual task taxes working memory. Several predictions can be derived from the working memory explanation for eye movements in EMDR. These seem to hold up extremely well in critical experimental tests, and create a solid explanation on how eye movements work. This paper






Marcel A. van den Hout
Iris M. Engelhard

Original Work Citation

van den Hout, M. A., & Engelhard I. M. (2012). How does EMDR work? Journal of Experimental Psychopathology, 3, (5), 724?738. doi:10.5127/jep.028212



“How does EMDR work?,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed July 3, 2020,

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