Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a first-line treatment for adults with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some clinicians argue that with refugees, directly targeting traumatic memories through EMDR may be harmful or ineffective.Aims
To determine the safety and efficacy of EMDR in adult refugees with PTSD (trial registration: ISRCTN20310201).Method
In total, 72 refugees referred for specialised treatment were randomly assigned to 12 h of EMDR (3×60 min planning/preparation followed by 6×90 min desensitisation/reprocessing) or 12 h (12×60 min) of stabilisation. The Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) and Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (HTQ) were primary outcome measures.Results
Intention-to-treat analyses found no differences in safety (one severe adverse event in the stabilisation condition only) or efficacy (effect sizes: CAPS −0.04 and HTQ 0.20) between the two conditions.Conclusions
Directly targeting traumatic memories through 12 h of EMDR in refugee patients needing specialised treatment is safe, but is only of limited efficacy.