Swedish Study Shows EMDR Has Lasting Effects on PTSD

Researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm looked at the long term effects of 5 sessions of EMDR on subjects with chronic PTSD, and found that most maintained the positive effects 35 months later.. Researchers from the Department of Clinical Neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm looked at long term effects of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing) on PTSD. Twenty subjects with chronic PTSD, following occupational traumas from "person under train" accidents or assault at work, were treated with five sessions of EMDR. They were assessed with psychometric scales and diagnostic interviews before treatment, directly after treatment, after 8 months, and at 35 months after the end of therapy.

The primary outcome measure was full diagnosis of PTSD according to the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria. Results from interview-based and self-evaluation psychometric scales were used as secondary outcome measures.

Immediately following treatment, the patients were divided up into two groups: initial remitters (12 of 20) and non-remitters (8 of 20). There were no drop-outs during therapy, but three patients withdrew during follow-up.

This investigation found that the initial result was maintained at the 35-month follow-up. The secondary outcome variables also showed a significant immediate change towards normality that was stable during the long-term follow-up. After 3 years of follow-up, 83% of the initial remitters had full working capacity.

This suggests that five sessions of EMDR following a traumatic incident can have long-lasting positive effects on chronic sufferers of PTSD.

Citation: Högberg G, Pagani M, Sundin O, Soares J, Aberg-Wistedt A, Tärnell B, Hällström T. Treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder with eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: Outcome is stable in 35-month follow-up. Psychiatry Research. 2008 Mar 10 [Epub ahead of print]