Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) practitioners' beliefs about memory

Sanne T. L. Houben*, Henry Otgaar, Jeffrey Roelofs, Ineke Wessel, Lawrence Patihis, Harald Merckelbach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a widely used treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder. The idea behind EMDR is that lateral eye movements may mitigate the emotional impact of traumatic memories. Given the focus on changing patients' memories, it is important that EMDR practitioners have detailed knowledge about human memory. We explored beliefs and ideas about memory in samples of EMDR practitioners (Study 1: n = 12; Study 2: n = 41), students (Study 1: n = 35; Study 2: n = 24), and researchers (Study 2: n = 30). All groups seemed to be aware of the fallibility of memory. However, a majority of the surveyed EMDR practitioners (70-90%), students (around 90%), and researchers (66.7%) endorsed the controversial idea of repressed memories. Skepticism and endorsement of problematic ideas about memory-related topics may coexist within the same group. In clinical settings, this might be problematic, because a strong belief in repressed memories might lead therapists to suggestively seek for such memories in patients.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychology of Consciousness: Theory Research, and Practice
Early online date12 Dec 2019
Publication statusEarly online - 12 Dec 2019


  • EMDR
  • Memory beliefs
  • Recovered memory debate
  • Repressed memory
  • Repression


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