How Effective is EMDR therapy?

EMDR Therapy was developed in 1987 by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D. in Palo Alto, California. She published the first research on EMDR in 1989.  Since then it has been research-validated more than any other treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Over 400 research articles have been published about EMDR Therapy.  This includes over 20 good randomized control studies.


EMDR Research Results

The results show that EMDR has an 80-90% success rate for single-event traumas in 1-3 ninety minute sessions. For those who have experienced more trauma, abuse or neglect earlier in life, it takes longer than 1 to 3 sessions. The number of sessions needed is proportional to the amount of the difficulties experienced, but clients report it is more effective and efficient than the “talk therapy” they had previously experienced.


How does EMDR Compare With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Both are highly regarded.  The Cochran Review stated:  “CBT and EMDR have the highest validation and should be made available to all PTSD sufferers.”

In 8 of 9 well-designed, randomized control studies, EMDR had better results than CBT.  In one study comparing EMDR to CBT and antidepressants (each group got one kind of treatment), EMDR gave the best treatment results.

Comparison research with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) shows EMDR can work in 1/3 to 1/2 the time of CBT.


Who Accepts EMDR Treatment?

EMDR has been accepted as a treatment for PTSD by the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, as well as the Department of Defense and the Veteran’s Administration.  EMDR is included in SAMHSA‘s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices.

All major insurances accept EMDR therapy as a treatment for Post-traumatic Stress (PTSD) and anxiety disorders.  Many will also accept it as an experimental therapy for depression, because it has helped eliminate the depression that is often a part of PTSD.

Important EMDR Development

EMDR Therapy has recently been included in a new National Institute of Mental Health sponsored website called Check under “Adult MH Therapist for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.”  They accept only therapies determined to be an effective form of therapy, backed by good research with randomized control trials.  The site is


Need for Future EMDR Research:  EMDR and Depression

One very promising area which deserves research attention is to study EMDR treatment for Depression.  We already know it can reduce the depression symptoms which are often part of PTSD. Please read more about recent depression research: Neuroscientists Report Depression Cause: Stress, Even Traumatic Stress

Many EMDR therapists have found that EMDR does help reduce depression symptoms independent of PTSD. This application is considered experimental until research comes out to give an objective picture. But a clear Depression Protocol and research validation is needed.  To read more on how EMDR can help with Depression see Depression Therapy and Treatment

Bessel Van der Kock, MD has researched the value of prozac vs. EMDR for PTSD and found EMDR to be superior. It would be interesting to do comparison research on Depression itself.

Since Depression is such a serious and widespread problem, we encourage researchers to tackle this issue, and any foundations dedicated to mental health, to provide the financial support to make it possible.