Comparison of two treatments for traumatic stress: a community-based study of EMDR and prolonged exposure

J Clin Psychol. 2002 Jan;58(1):113-28. doi: 10.1002/jclp.1132.


This pilot study compared the efficacy of two treatments for postraumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Prolonged Exposure (PE). Data were analyzed for 22 patients from a university-based clinic serving the outside community (predominantly rape and crime victims) who completed at least one active session of treatment after three preparatory sessions. Results showed both approaches produced a significant reduction in PTSD and depression symptoms, which were maintained at three-month follow-up. Successful treatment was faster with EMDR as a larger number of people (7 of 10) had a 70% reduction in PTSD symptoms after three active sessions compared to 2 of 12 with PE. EMDR appeared to be better tolerated as the dropout rate was significantly lower in those randomized to EMDR versus PE (0 of 10 vs. 3 of 10). However all patients who remained in treatment with PE had a reduction in PTSD scores. Finally, Subjective Units of Distress (SUDS) ratings decreased significantly during the initial session of EMDR, but changed little during PE. Postsession SUDS were significantly lower for EMDR than for PE. Suggestions for future research are discussed.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Community Mental Health Services
  • Desensitization, Psychologic / methods*
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors