EMDR is considered an evidence-based psychotherapy for PTSD by the following organizations:
- The American Psychological Association
- The American Psychiatric Association
- The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies 1998 and 2008
- The 2004 AND 2010 VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guidelines
- Also Tricare and many other third-party payers
- It has been identified as effective in reviews by the Cochrane Database and the RAND Corporation
It is not ranked below any other treatment in any of these reviews. Its status has not been reduced in any revisions.
Further: Prolonged Exposure, Cognitive Processing Therapy (and sometimes Cognitive Therapy)and Stress Inoculation are considered evidence based in these reviews.
The sole exception to this pattern is the Institute of Medicine report, which concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence by their standard to identify EMDR as effective. The IOM had its own standard of rigor which favored ONLY prolonged exposure on the basis of a study by Schnurr et al. 2007. It was a very good study with a very large sample and deserves recognition for that. However (and this is the part that doesn’t often get discussed), it was a study of female veterans (great, it’s an important population), only 36% of the sample had served in a combat setting, only 6% identified a combat event as their primary stressor. The most commonly reported stressor was military sexual trauma (great, it’s an important stressor). But lots of people who don’t read studies assume that it was a study of combat trauma. There were some problems with the IOM’s review of EMDR, but that’s an issue for later discussion.
Susan Rogers, Ph.D.
VA Medical Center