Moving eyes and thoughts may help kids move on from trauma

May 15, 2023

In a head-to-head trial, both Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) led to improvements on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnostic measures by three-month follow-up.

Specifically, 86–95.0% of children who had been treated with EMDR were diagnosis free after three months, compared with 87 to 89% of children who had been treated with CBT (figures varied by informant, whether self- or parent-report), with no significant differences between the two treatments.

At one-year follow-up, even more children were diagnosis free. By self-report, 100% of EMDR children and 92% of CBT children were diagnosis free after one year, with no significant difference between the two groups.

But by parent report, there was a statistically significant difference favouring EMDR, with 100% of children who received this treatment being diagnosis free, compared to 88% of those who received CBT.

Beyond diagnoses, both EMDR and CBT also reduced PTSD symptoms at three-month and one-year follow-ups, with no significant difference between the two treatments. In sum, both treatments were effective, with EMDR showing only one statistically significant benefit over CBT greater reductions in PTSD diagnostic rates by parent report at one-year follow-up. Table 4 summarizes these outcomes. For more information, see Vol. 15, No. 2 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.