Advancing EMDR research and practice: Reflections and the future


As my second two-year term as a trustee for the EMDR UK Association winds down, I’m eager to update you on our journey since my election in 2020. The main change has been the reformation of the Scientific and Research Committee (SRC) and substantially increased activities supporting our ambitions. In this article, I’ll share these accomplishments and outline our strategic vision for the coming years. 

Milestones and achievements: Scientific and Research Committee

Upon my election as trustee, I took on the responsibility of establishing the Scientific and Research Committee (SRC). Since its inception, I’ve had the honour of chairing the monthly virtual meetings of the SRC. Alongside the committee, I developed the role of Research Officer, a vital position now held by the very competent Beverly Coghlan. Beverly remains your key link with the Association on matters related to our scientific programme and can be reached here.

During my tenure as chair of the SRC, we successfully developed and implemented our inaugural three-year Strategic Research Plan, which spanned from 2020 to 2022. This plan was geared towards promoting the use of EMDR in PTSD, depression, and psychosis, as well as several supporting objectives that included developing the SRC, creating a database, establishing the role of a research officer and other activities. As this period ended, the SRC conducted a careful review and, in collaboration with the board, approved a more focused Strategic Plan for 2023-2026. This new strategy pivoted to narrowing the primary focus to the use of EMDR in the treatment of PTSD, especially concerning existing relative restrictions set out in the NICE guidelines. 

This refined focus reflects the Association’s limited capacity. It was a calculated decision to maximise the impact of our resources. There is a critical imperative behind zeroing in on PTSD because the current NICE guidelines place limitations on using EMDR. Failure to tackle these issues head on could risk diminishing EMDR’s standing as an outstanding treatment option within the NHS, for PTSD, where it is currently the only indicator for its application. Therefore, we committed to systematically confronting these limitations to ensure that the standing of EMDR is consolidated and strengthened as an effective and essential treatment option in the NHS. 

Our overarching strategy continues to have four key principles: 

  • Developing research expertise: We aim to cultivate a robust body of experts in the EMDR field and closely allied sectors 
  • Promoting research literacy: We believe it is important to educate members about the value of research and associated research skills, particularly in understanding research evidence 
  • Data gathering and dissemination: The collection and sharing of existing EMDR research on a bespoke research database is a powerful resource for members, whether working as clinicians, lobbyists, or policy formulators 
  • Credible evidence for NICE guidance: Our goal is to distil existing research and develop persuasive research to influence the NICE guidelines on treatment methodologies. 

Key successes 

Evolution of the funding strategy  

In the early stages of our work, we came to recognise the limitations of a fragmented approach to research funding. This original strategy often targeted small-scale, individual research projects closely tied to members’ professional studies. Although well-intentioned, this approach presented multiple challenges. Not only were these smaller projects expensive to support and govern, but the fragmentation of resources also diluted our ability to achieve impactful outcomes. These individual projects rarely resulted in tangible benefits to the wider EMDR community. 

Recognising these drawbacks, we consciously shifted towards a more strategic allocation of our resources. The goal was to ensure that our investments would yield a greater collective impact, aligning closely with the Association’s broader strategic objectives, more recently around PTSD. 

In this revamped strategy, we prioritised funding for research projects that align with these overarching goals. Furthermore, we have initiated financial support for publishing completed EMDR research, regardless of its specific focus, in open-access journals. This move has been mutually beneficial, fulfilling the Association’s objectives while also expanding the visibility and reach of valuable EMDR research. Through this evolved funding strategy, we have concentrated our resources more effectively, thereby contributing to better outcomes for the Association and its mission. 

EMDR research database 

One accomplishment that stands out for me, is creating the EMDR research database hosted on Zotero. This database serves as a comprehensive repository, housing a wide array of academic research, including scholarly studies, case reviews, and a wealth of empirical evidence all specifically focused on EMDR. It is meticulously curated to offer robust, comprehensive, and reliable information. This database is an exclusive asset for our association members, offering a rich source of information to inform our clinical practice, research efforts and policy development. Instructions on how to access the database are here.

Benefits for researchers 

For academic and clinical researchers, this database offers an invaluable, centralised source of existing research in the EMDR domain. It streamlines the literature review process, hypothesis formulation, and study design. By facilitating easier access to a wealth of research, we have lowered barriers to new academic inquiry. Researchers can quickly find all EMDR studies related to their area of work, substantially accelerating the process and increasing confidence in their work. 

Advantages for advocates of EMDR 

Advocates promoting the effectiveness and applicability of EMDR will find the database a rich resource of evidence for substantiating their claims. From clinicians arguing for EMDR within their own institutions to lobbyists working to influence policy on a broader scale, the database provides a reservoir of empirical evidence to make a compelling case. Its comprehensive nature can fortify arguments for EMDR’s inclusion in different therapeutic settings and patient populations. 

Impact on policy preparation 

When it comes to shaping policy, particularly policies related to mental health care standards such as the NICE guidelines, the availability of a comprehensive and easily accessible database will provide significant advantages. Policymakers and influencers can turn to this database to retrieve many studies demonstrating EMDR’s effectiveness across different demographics and conditions. This will significantly bolster the credibility of policy proposals advocating for including EMDR in mental health treatment guidelines. 

In summary, the EMDR research database is a dynamic tool thoughtfully designed to serve your diverse needs, whether you are a clinician, researcher, or policy advocate. Access to this knowledge base enriches the EMDR community, and I believe it empowers each one of us to excel. 

Future plans and strategies 

Our ongoing and future initiatives are structured into the following targeted action plans:

Strategic communication: We aim to keep our membership and the broader community informed and engaged. This involves summarising the strategy in an easily understandable format, creating engaging presentations for conferences and workshops, and maintaining a flow of newsletters and email updates (such as this article).  

Research database: We will continue to maintain our research database and encourage members to use this. As resources allow, we will provide members with considered analysis and synopsis of the evidence supporting specific areas and conditions.   

Third-party evaluation: To underpin our advocacy and policy work, we have asked Sheffield University to collate the evidence related to the prevention and treatment of PTSD for children, adolescents, and adults to address the current evidence base on the historical caveats in NICE guidance. In addition, we will also look at the evidence around the relative accessibility of EMDR amongst disadvantaged populations.  In addition to supporting our evidence submission to NICE, we can prioritise further research by identifying gaps or discrepancies. This is already underway, and we anticipate presenting findings at the 2024 annual conference. 

Clinical data analysis: Besides academic studies, we aim to examine real-world data from clinical services, for example, IAPT services, trauma services in Northern Ireland, and military centres. The objective is to establish practice-based evidence around the relative cost-effectiveness of EMDR relative to other treatments for PTSD. 

New research: Where our review identifies gaps, we plan to develop research protocols and commission new studies that fill these gaps. This involves securing funding and finding suitable research partners for the execution of these studies. 

Dissemination and advocacy:  As an ongoing process, we plan to commission summary articles and reports that will be useful to members and external stakeholders.  

Ongoing monitoring: As part of the strategy, we will review the impact of these activities and adjust our approach as needed. 

Sheffield University analysis on the horizon

A pivotal element of our approach is the upcoming review from Sheffield University, which is already underway. This third-party evaluation aims to offer a comprehensive look at EMDR’s effectiveness in the prevention and treatment of PTSD across all age groups. The report’s release is eagerly anticipated for next year’s annual conference and promises to be an influential document. 

Through these concerted efforts, we are poised to expand our understanding, bolster scientific credibility, and increase the adoption of EMDR, thereby fulfilling our mission to advance this transformative therapeutic approach. 

A heartfelt farewell and a new beginning 

The journey as your trustee and the chair of the SRC has been immensely gratifying. I am deeply indebted to Beverly Coghlan, our exceptional research officer, and the entire committee for their tireless dedication and hard work. However, the next chapter calls me back to academia, where I aim to further my expertise in statistics and data analytics. My personal objective is to gain skills to analyse the NHS’s mostly untapped large mental health datasets, using this real-world data from clinical practice to illuminate the effectiveness of EMDR in daily practice. 

A call to service 

As my term as a trustee ends, there will be a vacancy as a trustee beginning in March 2024. Stepping into this role offers a chance to contribute substantially to transformative changes and meaningful advancements in the field of EMDR. This is a great opportunity for you to make a significant contribution.  It is worth noting that the chair of the SRC does not have to be a trustee. This flexibility provides an array of opportunities for anyone passionate about research, governance, or EMDR advocacy to become actively involved. 

Should you be contemplating this, please contact our Research Officer, Beverly Coghlan or myself for information and details. There has never been a more pivotal time to contribute your skills and perspectives to the work of our Association. I encourage you to seize this chance to make a lasting impact. 


With committed participation from all members, the EMDR UK Association will continue to break new ground. Implementing our Strategic Research Plan 2023-2026 is already underway, and its success lies in our collective effort. Thank you for your trust and support over these past years; the future of EMDR looks incredibly promising. 

Let’s continue to champion excellence in EMDR for the benefit of all. 

Dr Ben Wright MB BS MSc FFCI FRCPsych, EMDR Association Trustee, Chair SRC. email: