ISSN 2043-8087
Journal of Experimental Psychopathology
 Volume 3, Issue 5, 724-738, 2012
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Free Article How does EMDR work?

Marcel A. van den Hout, Iris M. Engelhard
Clinical and Health Psychology, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Volume 3, Issue 5, 2012, Pages 724-738

Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) is an effective treatment for alleviating trauma symptoms, and the positive effects of this treatment have been scientifically confirmed under well- controlled conditions. This has provided an opportunity to explore how EMDR works. The present paper reports on the findings of a long series of experiments that disproved the hypothesis that eye movements or other 'dual tasks' are unnecessary. These experiments also disproved the idea that 'bilateral stimulation' is needed; moving the eyes up and down produces the same effect as horizontal eye movement, and so do tasks that require no eye movement at all. However, it is important that the dual task taxes working memory. Several predictions can be derived from the working memory explanation for eye movements in EMDR. These seem to hold up extremely well in critical experimental tests, and create a solid explanation on how eye movements work. This paper discusses the implications that this theory and the empirical findings may have for the EMDR technique.

Table of Contents
History and Effects of EMDR
How to Proceed Now?
A Model of EMDR
Hypothesis 1: EMDR Works by Recalling Aversive Memories and Eye Movements Do Not Contribute Anything
Hypothesis2: EMDR Works by Stimulating "Interhemispheric Communication"
Hypothesis 3: EMDR Works by Taxing Working Memory During Recall
Other Tasks
Positive Memories
Prospective Memory and Flash-Forwards
How Do We Know If And How Much WM Is Taxed?
Low Working Memory Capacity? Benefit From EMDR
Inverted U
The Effect of Beeps
Mindfulness and Mindful Breathing

Correspondence to
Marcel A. van den Hout, Clinical and Health Psychology, Utrecht University, PO Box 80140, 3508 TC Utrecht, the Netherlands.


Received 5 Apr 2012; Revised 10 Jul 2012; Accepted 11 Jul 2012; In Press 5 Dec 2012

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