History of EMDR

Eye Movements and BLS

  • Role of eye movements in cognitive processing and cortical function has been well-documented
  • Francine Shapiro observed the personal effects of spontaneous eye movements in 1987
    • Through experimentation and observation, she developed a standardized protocol, calling it Eye Movement Desensitization (EMD)
    • The controlled pilot study was published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress in 1989 to demonstrate the therapeutic effectiveness
      • The journal featured the first controlled studies for the treatment of PTSD: prolonged exposure, psychodynamic, hypnosis and EMD
    • The name changed from EMD to EMDR in 1990 based on clinical observations of:
      • Simultaneous desensitization and cognitive restructuring of memories
      • Spontaneous insights
      • Increase in self-efficacy
    • Model evolved from Accelerated Information Processing to Adaptive Information Processing
      • The shift from a desensitization-based model to one that is more adaptive due to:
        • Reprocessing of all aspects of negative, maladaptive information to adaptive, healthy, useful resolution
        • Demonstrated by adaptive:
          • change(s) in belief(s)
          • elicitation of insight
          • increase in positive affects
          • change(s) in physical sensation(s)
          • change(s) in behavior(s)
      • Other forms of bilateral stimulation (BLS) were identified (auditory and tactile)


• Francine Shapiro Library – http://emdria.omeka.net

  • To date, there are 90+ randomized controlled clinical trials on the efficacy and / or effectiveness of EMDR
  • PTSD eliminated in 77% of multiply traumatized combat veterans in 12 sessions of EMDR with 100% retention in study participants (Carlson et al., 1998)
  • EMDR resulted in better and lasting results for treating PTSD and depression vs. Prozac. Prozac patients became symptomatic when discontinued. (van der Kolk, et al., 2007)
  • Positive treatment gains are reached in fewer sessions with EMDR and substantial benefits are maintained over time (Marcus et al, 1997, 2004)
  • EMDR groups tended to improve on all standardized measures in post-treatment follow-up (Edmond et al, 1999)

It is important to adhere to model fidelity and treatment dose for positive results.

Eye movements result in reduction of vividness of image and emotionality vs. control.