EMDR for depression: A meta-analysis and systematic review


The literature on the efficacy of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) for treating depression is heterogeneous due to research design, quality issues, and trials methodology. The current meta-analysis seeks to examine EMDR for depression with the aim of answering the aforementioned limitations. Thirty-nine studies were included for analysis after a review of the relevant literature. Univariate meta-regressions were run to examine dose-response and the effect of moderating variables. Subanalysis for primary and secondary depression showed a large, significant, and heterogeneous effect-size estimates, where EMDR significantly improved symptoms of depression in contrast to all control types. At post hoc, data were reexamined and a significant and large, yet heterogeneous, effect-size estimate emerged between the EMDR and control arm after the removal of two outliers [Hedges’ g = 0.70, 95% CI = 0.50–0.89, p-value < .01, I2 = 70%, K = 37]. This is the first meta-analysis examining for the effect of EMDR comparing to various control modalities on depression with dose-response. We found (a) that studies were balanced at onset in terms of depression severity, and (b) a large and significant effect of EMDR on depression at the end of trials. Additionally, the significance of the aggregate effect-size estimate at the end of trials was unchanged by the intake of psychotropic medications, reported demographic variables, or EMDR methodology.






Amir Ali Sepehry
Kerena Lam
Michael Sheppard
Manal Guirguis-Younger
Asa-Sophia Maglio

Original Work Citation

Sepehry, A. A., Lam, K., Sheppard, M., Guirguis-Younger, M., & Maglio, A.-S. (2021). EMDR for depression: A meta-analysis and systematic review. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 15(1), 2-17. doi:10.1891/EMDR-D-20-00038



“EMDR for depression: A meta-analysis and systematic review,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed June 18, 2021, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/26743.

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