Eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR) as a treatment for chronic pain


Chronic pain has become a widespread public health problem and one of the most common reasons that individuals pursue medical treatment. It is also one of the most difficult medical conditions to treat. Over the past 20 years there has been an increasing awareness that treatment must include a psychotherapeutic aspect in conjunction with a medical one, to be truly successful in alleviating pain symptoms. As the research has evolved, the mental health community has shown evidence that Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) is an effective treatment methodology for not only trauma, but a range of mental health issues, including chronic pain. This research investigated the perceived benefits of using a uniform EMDR protocol for the social work and mental health community and for the population of individuals suffering from chronic pain. This study used a participatory action research (PAR) methodology, utilizing EMDR trained licensed clinical social workers, psychologists, counselors, and chronic pain patients who have completed treatment as participants in identifying modifications to the standard EMDR protocol that are currently implemented to specifically target chronic pain. Using semi-structured interviews, stakeholder meetings, and a field journal, the researcher gathered data to identify effective modifications to the standard EMDR protocol that were most commonly used to specifically treat chronic pain symptoms. Using the data collected, the researcher created a manual of modifications used to treat chronic pain. The data identified that there is not a standardized protocol currently being used by EMDR mental health clinicians to treat chronic pain. The data showed that clinicians are modifying the standard protocol, but not in any type of consistent or universal way. It would be valuable for future research be conducted, using a more in depth, randomized controlled study that focused on identifying which protocols are clinically proven to work most effectively to treat chronic pain. The outcomes of this study were disseminated to the participants in the final stakeholder meeting and were also shared via email. The executive summary of this data was shared with EMDRIA to be distributed to the larger EMDR community. As a result of this action research project, trained EMDR professionals were provided with the necessary tools to help their clients find a safe and non invasive method of pain relief, while also guiding the direction of future research and contributing to evidence-based practice (EBP) for social workers, mental health clinicians, and the EMDR community.






Kimberley von Baeyer

Original Work Citation

von Baeyer, K. (2020). Eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR) as a treatment for chronic pain. (Doctoral dissertation, Capella University)


“Eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR) as a treatment for chronic pain,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed January 19, 2021, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/26386.

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