Program

Oct 16, 2013

OVERVIEW

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy treatment designed to help heal psychological trauma.  In EMDR, patients think about traumatic memories briefly while focusing on relaxing external stimuli.  In an evaluation of the treatment program, 85 young women received either EMDR or Active Listening therapy (AL), which uses more traditional therapy methods.  Results indicated that people in both groups showed improvements in depression, anxiety, self-esteem, and symptoms and problems associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) immediately after treatment.  However, patients receiving the EMDR therapy improved significantly more than patients receiving the AL therapy.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population:  Children, adolescents and young adults who have experienced physical and/or emotional trauma, such as abuse.

Eyes Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy treatment designed to alleviate distress associated with psychological trauma.  The therapy requires patients to recall traumatic memories in brief sequential doses while simultaneously focusing on external stimuli, such as the therapist’s lateral eye movements, hand-tapping, or audio clips.  This process is designed to pair relaxing stimuli with the stressful event, thus reducing future distress associated with recalling the traumatic memories.  EMDR is typically administered by a licensed or supervised therapist with a graduate degree.  The length of each treatment is 90 minutes, and duration of continued treatment depends on the severity of the trauma.

On-site training for EMDR costs about $1,500 and at-home study costs $154 for a book, test, and certificate of completion.

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

Scheck, M. M., Schaeffer, J. A., & Gillette, C. (1998). Brief psychological intervention with traumatized young women: The efficacy of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing.  Journal of Traumatic Stress, 11, 25-44.

Evaluated population:  Eighty-five females, between the ages of 16 and 25, residing in El Paso, Texas, who reported a traumatic memory and a recent history of dysfunctional behaviors, such as substance use or sexual promiscuity, served as the sample for this evaluation.  Twenty-five of the 85 (29%) were lost to follow-up at post-test, though both groups were found to be similar on measured variables at the time of the pre-test.  The analysis sample was made up of 62% Caucasians, 15% African-Americans, 15% Hispanics, and 8% Native Americans.

Approach:  Upon entrance into the study, participants were assessed for presence of, severity of, and problems associated with posttraumatic stress disorder as well as levels of depression, anxiety, and positive and negative self-concept.

Following these assessments, participants were randomly assigned to receive either the EMDR therapy or active listening therapy (AL).  In both study conditions, participants attended two 90-minute therapy sessions.  Participants in the EMDR group were asked to recall traumatic memories while simultaneously being exposed to relaxing physical stimuli.  Participants in the AL group engaged in more typical treatment sessions with their therapists.  Therapists using AL focused on establishing good rapport, communicating expectations of gain, and using sympathetic attention techniques.

Following the treatments, participants were once again assessed for problems and symptoms associated with PTSD, depression, anxiety, and positive and negative self-concept.

Results:  Results indicated that individuals in both intervention groups showed improvements in depression, anxiety, self-concept, and symptoms and problems associated with PTSD immediately after treatment.  However, patients receiving the EMDR therapy improved significantly more on four of these indicators than patients receiving the AL therapy (all but self-concept).

Ahmad, A., Larsson, B., & Sundelin-Wahlsten, V. (2007). EMDR treatment for children with PTSD: Results of a randomized controlled trial. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry61(5), 349-354.

Population: Thirty-three children between the ages of six and sixteen residing in Sweden who met criteria for PTSD were randomized to the intervention group or to a control group (waitlist).  Sixty percent of study participants were female, 58 percent were ethnically Swedish, 70 percent were from single-parent households.  Among parents, twenty-seven percent reported some criminal activity, 21 percent reported alcoholism, 30 percent a physical health problem, 61 percent a psychiatric problem, and 61 percent suffered from PTSD.

Approach: Out of 52 children who were initially enrolled in the study, 19 were excluded from the analysis.  Participants were excluded if, during the course of the study, they became involved with the child welfare system; required some other form of treatment; or enrolled in a remedial school due to an intellectual disability.  One additional participant was excluded due to lack of pre- and post-test data.  A total of 33 children were randomized into either the intervention group (n=17) or were placed on a waitlist (n=16).  Demographic and family history information was collected, and children were assessed for psychiatric diagnoses, including PTSD; PTSD symptoms; and non-PTSD psychiatric symptoms. All children were assessed for PTSD symptoms and non-PTSD psychiatric symptoms at the beginning of the study and two months later (post-intervention).  Assessments were completed by a research assistant who was unaware of children’s group membership. Eight weekly outpatient sessions of EMDR, lasting up to 45 minutes, were scheduled for each child in the intervention group.  While all children were scheduled to attend eight sessions, only nine children attended all session.  Five children attended between four and seven sessions, and three children attended fewer than four sessions.  EMDR treatment protocol was adapted for younger children.  For example, eye movements were replaced with tapping when necessary and face figures were used to assess their emotional state during each session rather than using a scale 0-10.

Results: Post-treatment scores of the intervention group were significantly lower than the waitlist group, indicating improvement in overall psychiatric symptoms (ES=0.08), PTSD symptoms (ES=0.20), and PTSD symptoms specific to re-experiencing (ES=0.63) and avoidance of the trauma (ES=0.11).  Children in the waitlist group had significantly reduced psychiatric symptoms that were unrelated to PTSD (ES=0.53); no reduction was noted among children in the intervention group.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

Website:  www.emdr.com

Information on implementing this program can be obtained from:

EMDR Institute, Inc.

PO Box 750

Watsonville, CA 95077

Phone: (831) 761-1040

E-mail: inst@emdr.com

References:

Scheck, M. M., Schaeffer, J. A., & Gillette, C. (1998). Brief psychological intervention with traumatized young women: The efficacy of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing.  Journal of Traumatic Stress, 11, 25-44.

Ahmad, A., Larsson, B., & Sundelin-Wahlsten, V. (2007). EMDR treatment for children with PTSD: Results of a randomized controlled trial. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry61(5), 349-354.

KEYWORDS: Children, Youth, Young Adults, Female Only, Males and Females, Clinic/Provider-based, Cost Information is Available, Manual is Available, Counseling/Therapy, Anxiety Disorders/Symptoms, Depression/Mood Disorders, Other Mental Health, Child Maltreatment

Program information last updated on 10/16/13.

Subscribe to Child Trends

Short weekly updates of recent research on children and youth.