In youth PTSD, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing yield benefits

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  • A review shows that eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has similar efficacy to cognitive behavioral therapy.

Why this matters

  • Some children with PTSD get little benefit from psychotherapy.
  • This analysis provides preliminary data that EMDR therapy could be an effective alternative, though more research is required.

Study design

  • Meta-analysis of 8 studies (n=295).
  • Funding: Centro de Investigacion Biomedica en Red de Salud Mental, Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Madrid, Spain, and the European Regional Development Fund.

Key results

  • EMDR therapy led to a reduction in PTSD symptoms (d, −0.49; P=.013), with moderate heterogeneity (I2=52%; P=.072).
  • The therapy also led to a reduction in anxiety symptoms (d, −0.44; P=.006), with no heterogeneity (I2=1%; P=.747).
  • Depression symptoms also decreased with EMDR therapy, but the decline was not statistically significant (d, −0.27; P=.118), with no heterogeneity (I2=11%; P=.416).


  • The analysis included a small number of trials.
  • The studies used different control conditions.
  • Some studies employed a small number of EMDR sessions.