Efficacy of Eye Movement Desensitization in the treatment of cognitive intrusions related to a past stressful event

Richard A. Lytle, Holly Hazlett-Stevens, T. D. Borkovec

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Much of the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) efficacy research has been widely criticized, limiting scientific understanding of its therapeutic components. The present investigation of Eye Movement Desensitization (EMD) effectiveness included undergraduate students reporting current intrusive cognitions concerning a traumatic event. Forty-five participants received a single treatment session of either: (a) EMD, as described by Shapiro [J. Behav. Ther. Exp. Psychiatry 20 (1989b) 211], (b) an identical procedure which employed eye fixation on a stationary target, or (c) non-directive counseling. Standardized self-report, subjective rating, Daily Diary, and intrusive thought sampling measures were collected before and after treatment. Results indicated that participants in the eye fixation group reported marginally (p < .052) fewer cognitive intrusions than the non-directive group 1 week following treatment. No significant differences between the EMD and non-directive conditions or between the EMD and eye fixation conditions on this measure were found. During the treatment session, both desensitization groups were superior to the non-directive group in reducing reported vividness of the mental image of the original event. However, the non-directive group improved to the level of the two other groups by the following week. Rapid saccadic eye movements were therefore unrelated to immediate treatment effects for this sub-clinical sample, and non-directive treatment largely yielded eventual outcomes equivalent to the two desensitization conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-288
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Anxiety Disorders
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Efficacy of Eye Movement Desensitization in the treatment of cognitive intrusions related to a past stressful event'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this