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Psychosomatic Medicine:
Letter To The Editor

Letter to the Editor

Rosch, Paul J. President, MD, FACP

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President, the American Institute of Stress.

Clinical Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry.

New York Medical College.

It is unfortunate, that in an otherwise comprehensive review of treatment approaches to posttraumatic stress disorder [1], no reference was made to eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). When first reported by Shapiro in 1989, it created considerable controversy because of the lack of any scientific rationale to explain the purported results, and little scientific validation. Since then, some 17,000 trained practitioners have treated approximately 1 million patients, with promising, and occasionally impressive results. The task force of the American Psychological Association report published last year, showed that three 90-minute EMDR treatment sessions were effective in 80 participants, with benefits being sustained at 90-day follow-up [2]. A study by Dutch investigators found that EMDR could be effective after only one session [3], and another evaluation of its use in Vietnam War veterans, found that it was superior to biofeedback and relaxation training approaches [4].

A Harvard professor of psychiatry who resisted using EMDR at his trauma center, was recently quoted as being amazed at the results in several of his patients who went elsewhere for treatment, stating, "I've worked in trauma for 20 years. I've never seen anything like that. Some of the symptoms melted away like snow in the sun." [5]. While the rationale for EMDR therapy, or left-right stimulation of eye movements remains to be elucidated, it seems likely that it can prove effective for some patients with PTSD, and should be included in any review of therapies for this and other trauma-based disorders.

Paul J. Rosch, M.D., F.A.C.P.

President, The American Institute of Stress

Clinical Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry

New York Medical College

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1. Shalev AY, Bonne O, Eth S: Treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder: A review. Psychosom Med 58:165-182, 1996

2. Wilson SA, Becker LA, Tinker RH: Eye movement desesitization and reprocessing (EMDR) treatment for psychologically traumatized individuals. J Consult Clin Psychol 63:928-937, 1995

3. de Jongh A, ten Broeke E, van der Meer K: A new development in the treatment of anxiety and trauma: "Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)." Psychol Psycholpathol Psychother 43:226-233, 1995

4. Silver SM, Brooks A, Obenchain J: Treatment of Vietnam War veterans with PTSD: A comparison of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, biofeedback, and relaxation training. J Trauma Stress 8:337-342, 1995

5. Liu L: Hand Waving. The Sciences 1996:July/August 13

Copyright © 1997 by American Psychosomatic Society