Szemmozgásos traumafeldolgozás (EMDR-terápia): Hatás, hatásmechanizmus, hatásosság

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR therapy): Effect, mechanism of action, efficacy


Theoretical background:

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) has been used as a psychotherapeutic method for 30 years. The procedure developed by Francine Shapiro in the late 1980's in the United States was first widely disputed, but is now an evidence-based method in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Its use is increasing in several other mental disorders as well, such as panic disorder, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. In Hungary, the method is not widely used yet.

A presentation of the history, theoretical background, hypotheses referring to the mechanisms of action, structure and effects of EMDR therapy.

Systematic review of the literature through keyword search using the name of the method in English-language databases (ISI Web of Science, PubMed, Scopus, PsycINFO). The overview focuses mainly on review articles or on studies of high-quality evidence (e.g. randomized controlled trials).

Desensitization, a better access to trauma memories and deeper information-processing take place during EMDR, resulting not only in stress reduction, but also in a more adaptive, higher-level functioning. Neuroimaging reveals that bilateral stimulation, EMDR's specific factor, brings about parasympathetic activation, and induces favorable changes in the functioning of the brain structures affected by PTSD. Several hypotheses (e.g. deconditioning, working memory, REM-hypothesis) have been suggested for EMDR's mechanisms of action. Most probably, the procedure involves several active components. After successful EMDR-therapy, individuals come to terms with the events disrupting their life course, and include them into a unified narrative, which may contribute to the integration of the personality.

EMDR is not just a novel combination of well-known and original therapeutic elements, nor a technical adjunct to existing schools of trauma therapy, but an evidence-based, full-fledged, integrative yet independent psychotherapeutic method, with a theoretical model, mechanisms of action and assets of its own.






Szigeti F. Judit

Original Work Citation

Judit, S. F. (2018, December). [Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR therapy): Effect, mechanism of action, efficacy]. Mentálhigiéné es Pszichoszomatika, 19(4), 335-356. doi:10.1556/0406.19.2018.011.  Hungarian



“Szemmozgásos traumafeldolgozás (EMDR-terápia): Hatás, hatásmechanizmus, hatásosságEye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR therapy): Effect, mechanism of action, efficacy,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed October 30, 2020,

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