Aim: There is an extensive body of research examining the efficacy of Eye-Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy in treatment of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This systematic narrative review aimed to systematically, and narratively, review robust evidence from Randomized-Controlled Trials examining the efficacy of EMDR therapy.
Method: Eight databases were searched to identify studies relevant to the study aim. Two separate systematic searches of published, peer-reviewed evidence were carried out, considering relevant studies published prior to April 2017. After exclusion of all irrelevant, or non-robust, studies, a total of two meta-analyses and four Randomized-Controlled Trials were included for review.
Results: Data from meta-analyses and Randomized-Controlled Trials included in this review evidence the efficacy of EMDR therapy as a treatment for PTSD. Specifically, EMDR therapy improved PTSD diagnosis, reduced PTSD symptoms, and reduced other trauma-related symptoms. EMDR therapy was evidenced as being more effective than other trauma treatments, and was shown to be an effective therapy when delivered with different cultures. However, limitations to the current evidence exist, and much current evidence relies on small sample sizes and provides limited follow-up data.
Conclusions: This systematic narrative review contributes to the current evidence base, and provides recommendations for practice and future research. This review highlights the need for additional research to further examine the use of EMDR therapy for PTSD in a range of clinical populations and cultural contexts.
Eye-Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) is a form of Psychotherapy developed by Shapiro (1995). Ostensibly, EMDR therapy is a trans-diagnostic, integrative psychotherapy that has been extensively researched and there is a growing empirical base for effective for the treatment of adverse life experiences, namely Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (Farrell, 2016). EMDR therapy utilizes a theoretical framework of Adaptive Information Processing (AIP), which posits that the primary source of psychopathology is the presence of memories of adverse life experiences inadequately processed by the brain (Felitti et al., 1998). There is much evidence examining the use of EMDR therapy as a treatment for trauma, however, much of this evidence centers upon non-Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs).
This report intends to systematically, and narratively, review robust RCT evidence examining the efficacy of EMDR therapy.
A systematic literature search of the databases was carried out, as outlined in Figure 1. After an initial scoping review of the literature, it became apparent that relevant meta-analyses of RCT studies were available. Therefore, the first systematic search gathered evidence of all systematic reviews and meta-analyses, which have synthesized and presented collective RCT evidence, examining the efficacy of EMDR therapy. All of the meta-analyses returned from this search specifically focused on the efficacy of EMDR therapy on PTSD symptoms – the most recent meta-analysis included papers prior to 2014. As a result, a second search was carried out to look at RCT studies investigating the efficacy of EMDR therapy on PTSD symptoms between 2014 and 2017, to ensure the most recent evidence was considered.