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This phase of research into EMDR in its first decade was stimulated by the Shapiro (1989) publication outlining the procedure and its successful use with a mixed group of PTSD clients. Its merit lies in its originality, but few conclusions may be drawn from it because of design flaws including no blind assessors, unclear sample definition, and diagnostic assessment, limited use of standardised measures and a control treatment that was not the equivalent of a properly conducted flooding procedure.

Vaughan et al. (1994) was the first study to compare EMDR with an exposure treatment (image habituation training) and also applied muscle relaxation. All treatments led to significant decreases in PTSD symptoms over those on a waiting list but with greater reductions in the EMDR group across all measures, and with significantly greater reductions for intrusive memories. This study used blind assessors and reliable and standardised measures.

However, there were no psychophysiological measures and 22 % of subjects failed a strict definition of PTSD.

Marcus, Marquis & Sakai (1997) showed EMDR producing significantly greater improvements over a standard care treatment group on measures of PTSD, depression and anxiety. Standard care treatment embraced a variety of psychotherapies. Marcus et al. (2004) found EMDR superiority was maintained at three- and six-month follow-ups. Carlson et al. (1998) showed EMDR to be significantly more effective that a biofeedback assisted relaxation group and a wait list control. These results were largely maintained at three-month follow up and this is important because this is one of the only studies of combat veterans (chronic, complex trauma) where sufficient treatment was provided to demonstrate treatment effects. Scheck, Schaeffer & Gillette (1998) compared EMDR with an 'active listening' approach with improvements for both groups but with the EMDR group showing significantly greater improvements on all PTSD related, anxiety, depression, and self-esteem scales.

Two randomised controlled studies (RCTs) compared EMDR to wait list or delayed treatment controls. Wilson, Becker & Tinker (1995) demonstrated significant improvements in the EMDR treatment group across all measures and maintained at three months follow up. However, only 46 % of subjects fitted a PTSD classification and there were no psycho-physiological measures. Wilson et al. (1997) found that improvements with EMDR were largely maintained at 15 months follow-up. Rothbaum (1997) in a well controlled study compared female rape victims treated with EMDR to those on a wait list control. Results showed that after EMDR 90 % of the participants no longer met full criteria for PTSD and subjects treated with EMDR improved significantly more on PTSD and depression than wait-list controls.

There were three component analysis RCTs in this research phase up until 1998. Renfrey & Spates (1994) compared EMDR to the procedure with visual attention held static. No significant differences were found between treatment conditions, although Renfrey and Spates acknowledged 'an observed tendency for the two treatment conditions that involved eye movements to appear more efficient'. Pitman et al. (1996) compared normal EMDR with a control group where eyes were static and subjects were instructed instead to tap their fingers rhythmically while the therapist used alternating hand movements mimicking the normal EMDR procedure. There were no significant differences between treatment conditions although Pitman et al. commented on the speed of improvements in the EMDR procedure in relation to their imaginal flooding procedure described in the same journal edition. Wilson et al. (1996) compared EMDR to the procedure with eyes held static and to EMDR with eye movements replaced by alternative thumb tapping. Only the eye movement group showed complete desensitisation to anxiety as measured by SUDS and psychophysiological measures.

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