Efficacy of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing as a treatment for PTSD symptoms of Vietnam combat veterans
The efficacy of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMD/R) was compared with that of a control (no treatment) condition in the treatment of Vietnam combat veterans with postraumatic stress disorder. Twenty-seven volunteer subjects were randomly assigned to the EMD/R and control conditions, with 13 EMD/R and 12 control subjects completing the entire study. Two therapists trained in EMD/R, and three trained interviewer/testers contributed in running the study.
Prior to random assignment, subjects indicated one PTSD-related goal for the study. They were also assessed on a measure of present PTSD symptoms, a measure of subjective anxiety, and a measure of belief in a positive cognition related to war trauma. They were then randomly assigned to conditions, with EMD/R subjects receiving three treatment sessions within a week. Approximately seventeen days after the initial assessment, each subject was retested on the measures of PTSD symptoms, subjective anxiety, and of the desired positive cognition. At this time, goal attainment was also assessed, and another general PTSD instrument was given.
Statistical analysis of both test-retest and posttest only measures indicated a general lack of effectiveness of EMD/R with the subjects in this study. While EMD/R was effective and statistically superior to the control condition in reducing in-session subjective anxiety, neither condition was effective in improving scores on the two PTSD symptom measures, in contributing to goal attainment, or in increasing subjects' beliefs in their stated desired positive cognition regarding war trauma.
This study's lackluster results are in sharp contrast to the considerable success reported in Shapiro's (1989) original EMD/R study incorporating few combat veterans. With certain procedural diversions acknowledged, this study's findings provide little support for widespread use of EMD/R as an intervention for Vietnam combat veterans' PTSD symptoms. Implications are that combat veterans with PTSD may comprise a population with distinctly chronic and disturbing symptomotology, and that the brief and novel EMD/R procedure may not be successful with such a population.
0384: Behaviorial sciences