EMDR Research News January 2014

There are five new journal articles on EMDR therapy this month and one new book. There are no videos this month. One of the articles includes the full text of a treatment manual for the use of EMDR therapy as part of the treatment of acute and post-traumatic stress disorders following multiple shocks from implantable cardiac defibrillators.

With each reference below, you will find the citation, abstract and author contact information (when available). Prior quarterly summaries of journal articles can be found on the
EMDRIA website and a comprehensive listing of all EMDR-related research is available at the Francine Shapiro Library. EMDRIA members can access recent Journal of EMDR Practice and Research articles in the member’s area on the EMDRIA website. JEMDR issues older than 12 months are available open access on IngentaConnect.


Books on EMDR

EMDR Revolution
The EMDR Revolution: Change Your Life One Memory At A Time (The Client's Guide) by Tal Croitoru is an easy-to-read guide to EMDR Therapy suitable for potential clients and their family members as well as professionals interested in learning more about EMDR Therapy. It provides an overview of the Adaptive Information Processing model and case examples illustrating typical EMDR Therapy results. The author is an EMDR clinician from Israel. The book is available in hardbound, paperback and Kindle edition.


Journal Articles


Jayawickreme, N., Cahill, S. P., Riggs, D. S., Rauch, S. A., Resick, P. A., Rothbaum, B. O., & Foa, E. B. (2013). Primum Non Nocere (First Do No Harm): Symptom worsening and improvement in female assault victims after prolonged exposure for PTSD. Depression and Anxiety. doi:10.1002/da.22225

Nuwan Jayawickreme, Department of Psychology, Manhattan College, Bronx, NY 10471. E-mail: nuwan.jayawickreme@manhattan.edu


BACKGROUND: Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy is an efficacious treatment for PTSD; despite this, many clinicians do not utilize it due to concerns it could cause patient decompensation.

METHOD: Data were pooled from four published well-controlled studies of female assault survivors with chronic PTSD (n = 361) who were randomly assigned to PE, waitlist (WL), or another psychotherapy, including cognitive processing therapy (CPT), Eye Movement and Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), or the combination of PE plus stress inoculation training (SIT) or PE plus cognitive restructuring. PTSD and depression severity scores were converted to categorical outcomes to evaluate the proportion of participants who showed reliable symptom change (both reliable worsening and reliable improvement).

RESULTS: The majority of participants completing one of the active treatments showed reliable improvement on both PTSD and depression compared to WL. Among treatment participants in general, as well as those who received PE, reliable PTSD worsening was nonexistent and the rate of reliable worsening of depression was low. There were no differences on any outcome measures among treatments. By comparison, participants in WL had higher rates of reliable symptom worsening for both PTSD and depression. Potential alternative explanations were also evaluated.

CONCLUSIONS: PE and a number of other empirically supported therapies are efficacious and safe treatments for PTSD, reducing the frequency of which symptom worsening occurs in the absence of treatment.


Jordan, J., Titscher, G., Peregrinova, L., & Kirsch, H. (2013). Manual for the psychotherapeutic treatment of acute and post-traumatic stress disorders following multiple shocks from implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD).
Psycho-social Medicine, 10, Doc09. doi:10.3205/psm000099

Jochen Jordan - Department of Psychocardiology, Kerckhoff Clinic Heart and Thorax Center, Bad Nauheim, Germany.

While the abstract does not mention it, the manual emphasizes a central role for EMDR therapy as one of five treatment elements.
Full text is available online:


Background: In view of the increasing number of implanted cardioverter defibrillators (ICD), the number of people suffering from so-called "multiple ICD shocks" is also increasing. The delivery of more than five shocks (appropriate or inappropriate) in 12 months or three or more shocks (so called multiple shocks) in a short time period (24 hours) leads to an increasing number of patients suffering from severe psychological distress (anxiety disorder, panic disorder, adjustment disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder). Untreated persons show chronic disease processes and a low rate of spontaneous remission and have an increased morbidity and mortality. Few papers have been published concerning the psychotherapeutic treatment for these patients.

Objective: The aim of this study is to develop a psychotherapeutic treatment for patients with a post-traumatic stress disorder or adjustment disorder after multiple ICD shocks.

Design: Explorative feasibility study: Treatment of 22 patients as a natural design without randomisation and without control group. The period of recruitment was three years, from March 2007 to March 2010. The study consisted of two phases: in the first phase (pilot study) we tested different components and dosages of psychotherapeutic treatments. The final intervention programme is presented in this paper. In the second phase (follow-up study) we assessed the residual post-traumatic stress symptoms in these ICD patients. The time between treatment and follow-up measurement was 12 to 30 months. Population: Thirty-one patients were assigned to the Department of Psychocardiology after multiple shocks. The sample consisted of 22 patients who had a post-traumatic stress disorder or an adjustment disorder and were willing and able to participate. They were invited for psychological treatment. 18 of them could be included into the follow-up study.

Methods: After the clinical assessment at the beginning and at the end of the inpatient treatment a post-treatment assessment with questionnaires followed. In this follow-up measurement, minimum 12 months after inpatient treatment, posttraumatic stress was assessed using the "Impact of Event Scale" (IES-R). Setting: Inpatient treatment in a large Heart and Thorax Centre with a Department of Psychocardiology (Kerckhoff Heart Centre).

Results: From the 18 patients in the follow-up study no one reported complaints of PTSD. 15 of them reported a high or even a very high decrease of anxiety and avoidance behaviour.

Conclusions: The fist step of the treatment development seems to be successful. It shows encouraging results with an acceptable dosage. The second step of our work is in process now: we evaluate the treatment manual within other clinical institutions and a higher number of psychotherapists. This leads in the consequence to a controlled and randomised comparison study.


Ronconi, J. M., Shiner, B., & Watts, B. V. (2014). Inclusion and exclusion criteria in randomized controlled trials of psychotherapy for PTSD.
Journal of Psychiatric Practice, 20(1), 25-37. doi:10.1097/01.pra.0000442936.23457.5b


Objective: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a prevalent and often disabling condition. Fortunately, effective psychological treatments for PTSD are available. However, research indicates that these treatments may be underutilized in clinical practice. One reason for this underutilization may be clinicians' unwarranted exclusion of patients from these treatments based on their understanding of exclusion criteria used in clinical trials of psychological treatments for PTSD. There is no comprehensive and up-to-date review of inclusion and exclusion criteria used in randomized clinical trials (RCTs) of psychological treatments for PTSD. Therefore, our objective was to better understand how patients were excluded from such RCTs in order to provide guidance to clinicians regarding clinical populations likely to benefit from these treatments.

Methods: We conducted a comprehensive literature review of RCTs of psychological treatments for PTSD from January 1, 1980 through April 1, 2012. We categorized these clinical trials according to the types of psychotherapy discussed in the major guidelines for treatment of PTSD and reviewed all treatments that were studied in at least two RCTs (N=64 published studies with 75 intervention arms since some studies compared two or more interventions). We abstracted and tabulated information concerning exclusion criteria for each type of psychotherapy for PTSD.

Results: We identified multiple RCTs of cognitive behavioral therapy (n=56), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (n=11), and group psychotherapy (n=8) for PTSD. The most common exclusions were psychosis, substance abuse and dependence, bipolar disorder, and suicidal ideation. Clinical trials varied in how stringently these criteria were applied. It is important to note that no exclusion criterion was used in all studies and there was at least one study of each type of therapy that included patients from each of the commonly excluded groups. A paucity of evidence exists concerning the treatment of patients with PTSD and four comorbidities: alcohol and substance abuse or dependence with current use, current psychosis, current mania, and suicidal ideation with current intent.

Conclusions” Psychological treatments for PTSD have been studied in broad and representative clinical populations. It appears that more liberal use of these treatments regardless of comorbidities is warranted.


Thomaes, K., Dorrepaal, E., Draijer, N., Jansma, E. P., Veltman, D. J., & van Balkom, A. J. (2013). Can pharmacological and psychological treatment change brain structure and function in PTSD? A systematic review.
Journal of Psychiatric Research. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2013.11.002

Kathleen Thomaes, GGZ InGeest/VUmc, A.J. Ernststraat 1187, 1081 HL Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Tel.: +31 20 7885674; fax: +31 20 7885664. E-mail: k.thomaes@vumc.nl


While there is evidence of clinical improvement of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with treatment, its neural underpinnings are insufficiently clear. Moreover, it is unknown whether similar neurophysiological changes occur in PTSD specifically after child abuse, given its enduring nature and the developmental vulnerability of the brain during childhood.

We systematically reviewed PTSD treatment effect studies on structural and functional brain changes from PubMed, EMBASE, PsycINFO, PILOTS and the Cochrane Library. We included studies on adults with (partial) PTSD in Randomized Controlled Trials (RCT) or pre-post designs (excluding case studies) on pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy. Risk of bias was evaluated independently by two raters. Brain coordinates and effect sizes were standardized for comparability.

We included 15 studies (6 RCTs, 9 pre-post), four of which were on child abuse. Results showed that pharmacotherapy improved structural abnormalities (i.e., increased hippocampus volume) in both adult-trauma and child abuse related PTSD (3 pre-post studies). Functional changes were found to distinguish between groups. Adult-trauma PTSD patients showed decreased amygdala and increased dorsolateral prefrontal activations post-treatment (4 RCTs, 5 pre-post studies). In one RCT, child abuse patients showed no changes in the amygdala, but decreased dorsolateral prefrontal, dorsal anterior cingulate and insula activation post-treatment.

In conclusion, pharmacotherapy may reduce structural abnormalities in PTSD, while psychotherapy may decrease amygdala activity and increase prefrontal, dorsal anterior cingulate and hippocampus activations, that may relate to extinction learning and re-appraisal. There is some evidence for a distinct activation pattern in child abuse patients, which clearly awaits further empirical testing.


Tsai, C., & McNally, R. J. (2014). Effects of emotionally valenced working memory taxation on negative memories.
Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 45(1), 15 - 19. doi:10.1016/j.jbtep.2013.07.004

Richard J. McNally, Harvard University, 33 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, MA 20138, USA. E-mail: rjm@wjh.harvard.edu


Background and objectives: Memories enter a labile state during recollection. Thus, memory changes that occur during recollection can affect future instances of its activation. Having subjects perform a secondary task that taxes working memory while they recall a negative emotional memory often reduces its vividness and emotional intensity during subsequent recollections. However, researchers have not manipulated the emotional valence of the secondary task itself.

Methods: Subjects viewed a video depicting the aftermath of three fatal road traffic accidents, establishing the same negative emotional memory for all subjects. We then tested their memory for the video after randomly assigning them to no secondary task or a delayed match-to-sample secondary task involving photographs of positive, negative, or neutral emotional valence.

Results: The positive secondary task reduced memory for details about the video, whereas negative and neutral tasks did not. Limitations We did not assess the vividness and emotionality of the subjects' memory of the video.

Conclusions: Having subjects recall a stressful experience while performing a positively valent secondary task can decrement details of the memory and perhaps its emotionality.