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  • The Efficacy of EMDR

    Author – Bailey Hall

    Randomized clinical trials, non-randomized clinical trials, and meta-analysis have been completed to test the efficacy of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR has been extensively and repeatedly validated. However, systematic literature reviews show that there is no significant difference in the efficacy of EMDR when compared to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) (Siedler & Wagner, 2006).

    While there is a large body of research regarding the treatment of PTSD in diverse populations, a meta-analysis of these studies (Dixon, Ahles, & Marques, 2016) does not include EMDR as one of the evaluated treatments. According to the body of research and its analysis, “racial and ethnic minorities are at higher risk for developing PTSD than their White counterparts” (Dixon et al., 2016). Additionally, it is important for clinicians to consider cultural differences in symptom presentation. Symptoms of PTSD may be normalized in communities with ongoing violence, and this can interfere with the identification necessary to reach diagnosis (Dixon et al., 2016). With consideration to the African-American community in the USA, there haven’t been any studies aimed at testing the efficacy of using EMDR until very recently. A study published in the Journal of Human Services reports on the use of “anti-oppressive, Critical Race theoretical perspective” to analyze four case studies in which EMDR was used to treat African-American clients (Lipscomb & Ashley, 2021). This is a very minimal amount of research, and is a spotlight on the need for further study and experimentation.

    Further research on the efficacy of EMDR in African-American, Latinx, Asian/Pacific Islander, and other collectivistic populations are needed to understand the effects of its use and when it is an appropriate treatment. Further research is also needed regarding the appropriate use of EMDR in psychotic individuals with comorbid traumas, and the role of EMDR in treating physical ailments such as chronic back pain.


    Dixon, L. E., Ahles, E., & Marques, L. (2016). Treating Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Diverse Settings: Recent Advances and Challenges for the Future. Current psychiatry reports, 18(12), 108. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-016-0748-4

    Lipscomb, Allen and Ashley, Wendy (2021) “A Critical Analysis of the Utilization of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Psychotherapy with African American Clients,” Journal of Human Services: Training, Research, and Practice: Vol. 7: Iss. 1, Article 3. Available at: https://scholarworks.sfasu.edu/jhstrp/vol7/iss1/3

    Seidler G, & Wagner, F. (2006). Comparing the efficacy of EMDR and trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy in the treatment of PTSD: a meta-analytic study. Psychological Medicine, 36(11), 1515–1522. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291706007963