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Treatment of Specific Phobias With EMDR: Conceptualization and Strategies for the Selection of Appropriate Memories

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Abstract

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) has been shown to be a structured, noninvasive, time-limited, and evidence-based treatment for unprocessed memories and related conditions. This paper focuses on EMDR as a treatment for specific fears and phobias. For this purpose, the application of EMDR is conceptualized as the selection and the subsequent processing of a series of strategically important memories of earlier negative learning experiences concerning specific objects or situations. Firstly, the practical application and conceptualization of the treatment of phobias with EMDR is presented and compared with an exposure-based treatment approach. Next, specific attention is given to the assessment and selection of appropriate memories for processing. It is hypothesized that phobias with a non-traumatic background, or those in later stages of treatment after some reduction in anxiety has been achieved, would profit more from the application of a gradual in vivo exposure, whereas trauma-based specific phobias and those with high initial levels of anxiety would respond most favorably to EMDR.

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