6. Where does EMDR’s effectiveness stand in relation to other treatments for PTSD? Is it now the “go-to” treatment for PTSD?
EMDR therapy is supported by more than 20 randomized studies and is recognized as an effective trauma treatment worldwide by organizations such as the US Department of Defense and the American Psychiatric Association.
As I mentioned, there are very few research-supported treatments for PTSD. For instance, most practice guidelines only recognize trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy (TF-CBT) and EMDR therapy as effective. However, the most widely used forms of TF-CBT require the client to describe the memory in detail and do 1-2 hours of daily homework.
In contrast, with EMDR therapy, all the work is done during the session, and those people who feel too ashamed to talk about the event don’t need to do it.
Also, three EMDR studies have reported an 84-100 percent remission of PTSD from a single trauma in the equivalent of three 90-minute reprocessing sessions.
So, while complex PTSD, such as from pervasive childhood trauma, will definitely need more extensive treatment than three sessions, in most cases it doesn’t take long for the client to derive benefit. It’s not like some versions of talk therapy where change is not expected to be apparent for many months, or even years.
7. EMDR’s widespread use seemingly was limited in its early days, and there was some criticism in professional circles for the way it was disseminated (often through expensive seminars and workshops). If you had to do it over again, would you still take that same route?
The criticism in the early days came about because at that time I was a behavioral psychologist. If I had introduced EMDR primarily in psychodynamic circles there wouldn’t have been a problem.
In those days, many members of the Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy believed that therapy procedures should be conducted by manual and trainings should be unnecessary. We exchanged letters that were published in the organization newsletter. Many argued that there was no problem with people using procedures without training.
When I stated that the procedures were too complex for that and needed supervised workshops, I was accused of advocating the equivalent of “psychoanalysis.” However, I believed then and still do that clinician training is mandatory because client safety is paramount.
At this point, it is widely recognized that workshops in both EMDR therapy and CBT are needed to ensure that procedures are done appropriately. In EMDR therapy trainings, we have always provided one trainer for each nine participants so that clinicians could be supervised while giving and receiving the therapy procedures. I think it is vital that therapists be appropriately trained before they work with clients. So, I wouldn’t change that at all.
However, I originally named the procedure “eye movement desensitization” because, as a behaviorist, I compared it to systematic desensitization and believed that the eye movements were primarily reducing anxiety.
After I published the first article in 1989, I realized that much more was happening than that and added the word “reprocessing” to the name in 1990. If I had to do it over, I’d simply name it Reprocessing therapy.
8. Is there something from EMDR that could be generalized to helping people live more mentally healthy, even if they don’t have a PTSD concern?
Recent research has shown that certain types of life experiences can cause more PTSD symptoms than major trauma. It has also been documented that negative childhood experiences can cause later problems.
EMDR therapy addresses the life experiences that set the foundation for a wide range of clinical complaints involving negative emotions, physical sensations, thoughts, beliefs, behaviors and relationship difficulties. It also incorporates procedures to address future concerns and challenges.
It is important to make sure that clinicians are trained in workshops certified by the EMDR Association in their region. In the US, that is the EMDR International Association (www.emdria.org). It is an independent professional organization that sets standards for both training and clinical practice. There are comparable national EMDR organizations in most countries, as well as regional associations such as EMDR Iberoamerica, EMDR Europe and EMDR Asia.
Unfortunately, there are substandard trainings taking place in the US that only teach parts of the therapy and are one-third the length of the approved trainings. Many clinicians don’t know that the trainings are substandard, so it’s important that clients interview clinicians to make sure they have been appropriately trained. In Getting Past Your Past, I provide a list of questions to ask to help make sure a prospective clinician will be a good fit for you.
In addition, I’d like readers to know about the work of our non-profit organization, EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Programs (HAP) (www.emdrhap.org). It provides support for underserved populations throughout the US and worldwide. An important goal for HAP is to bring education about trauma to the public thereby increasing awareness that PTSD can be treated and cured.
We also provide pro bono EMDR therapy training to clinicians in areas of ethnopolitical and religious violence. Unprocessed memories of humiliations and conflict can prevent mediation attempts and keep people separated. Unhealed trauma can also cause anger in men and depression in women that prevent them from bonding with their children. This, in turn, contributes to violence in the present, and poisons the next generation. We are doing our best to support the peace process in many parts of the world.
In addition, HAP volunteers have provided pro bono services to trauma victims globally after both man-made and natural disasters, such as the earthquake in Haiti and the tsunamis in Asia.
In the US, this has included projects involving victims of 9/11, Katrina, and Columbine. Pro bono EMDR therapy for combat veterans is also available at various locations. You can help with those efforts by donations and outreach assistance. Royalties for Getting Past Your Past are being donated to the organization, so readers can simultaneously help themselves and others.
More about Francine Shapiro…
Dr. Francine Shapiro is a senior research fellow at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto, California, director of the EMDR Institute, and founder of the non-profit EMDR-Humanitarian Assistance Programs.
As the originator of EMDR, she is a recipient of the International Sigmund Freud Award for Psychotherapy of the City of Vienna, the American Psychological Association Trauma Psychology Division Award for Outstanding Contributions to Practice in Trauma Psychology, and the Distinguished Scientific Achievement in Psychology Award, from the California Psychological Association.
As a result of her work, over 70,000 clinicians have treated millions of people during the past 20 years. She is an invited speaker at psychology conferences and universities worldwide.
For more information please visit http://www.drfrancineshapiro.com.
Tartakovsky, M. (2012). Using EMDR Therapy to Heal Your Past: Interview with Creator Francine Shapiro. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/using-emdr-therapy-to-heal-your-past-interview-with-creator-francine-shapiro/00011595
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.