The efficacy of EMDR early interventions


This brief narrative review begins with an overview of posttraumatic response and explains the value of early treatment in reducing/eliminating symptoms of distress and possibly preventing the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other disorders. The article then summarizes the efficacy of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy as an early intervention treatment. It outlines the historical context of EMDR early interventions and describes the three protocols which have research support from randomized controlled trials (RCTs), elaborating on their supportive evidence in seven RCTs conducted within 3 months of the traumatic event. These studies showed that EMDR early interventions significantly reduced symptoms of traumatic stress and prevented any exacerbation of symptoms. EMDR was superior to wait-list and to control conditions of critical incident stress debriefing, reassurance therapy, and supportive counseling.The article also examines the disparate evaluations of EMDR early interventions in the PTSD treatment guidelines, from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, the World Health Organization, and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. Despite promising clinical experience and initial controlled studies, there are still substantive gaps in the evidence base for EMDR early interventions. The article concludes with recommendations for future research, emphasizing that future trials adhere to the highest standards for clinical research and that they investigate whether EMDR early intervention prevents the development of PTSD or increases resilience.






Elan Shapiro
Louise Maxfield

Original Work Citation

Shapiro, E., & Maxfield, L. (2020). The efficacy of EMDR early interventions. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 14(1), 291-301. doi:10.1891/1933-3196.13.4.291



“The efficacy of EMDR early interventions,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed August 12, 2020,

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