EMDR & addiction


In this presentation we will briefly summarize research on the role of eye movements (EM) in negative, positive and neutral images. We will discuss the results in light of the working memory hypothesis and discuss important clinical implications.

EM in negative images: There are numerous studies (laboratory
as well as clinical) that demonstrate that eye movements reduce the vividness and emotionality of negative images. This effect is larger for eye movements than for tones. It is also related to the working memory capacity of the individual. Bilaterality (alternating between left and right) seems less important. We will discuss how clinicians can use these findings during EMDR sessions. EM in positive images: EM during the recall of positive memories make these memories less positive during further recalls. This is in line with the working memory hypothesis. It has also important clinical implications. First, disfunctional positive memories can be desensitised (e.g. memories leading to craving, paraphilia, impulse control disorders). Second, EM may be counterproductive in procedures like the safe place and Resource Development and Installation (RDI). EM in neutral images. A recent study demonstrated that the fading effect of EM in positive and negative memories is not found in non-emotional memories. This suggests the importance of sufficient arousal during EMDR and is related to the fact that stress-hormones (i.c. norepinephrine) are necessary for consolidation and reconsolidation of memories. Implications for the working memory hypothesis and for clinical practice will be discussed.






Hellen Hornsveld
Wiebren Markus

Original Work Citation

Hornsveld, H., & Markus, W. (2014, June). EMDR & addiction. In EMDR clinical specialty - Addictions symposium (Lynn Keenan, Chair). Symposium presented at the 15th EMDR Europe Association Conference, Edinburgh, Scotland



“EMDR & addiction,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed August 6, 2020, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/22944.

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