The efficacy of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression among Syrian refugees: results of a randomized controlled trial

Psychol Med. 2016 Sep;46(12):2583-93. doi: 10.1017/S0033291716001070. Epub 2016 Jun 29.


Background: Previous research indicates a high prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression among refugees. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is an effective treatment for PTSD for victims of natural disasters, car accidents or other traumatic events. The current study examined the effect of EMDR on symptoms of PTSD and depression by comparing the treatment with a wait-list control condition in Syrian refugees.

Method: Adult refugees located in Kilis Refugee Camp at the Turkish-Syrian border with a PTSD diagnosis were randomly allocated to either EMDR (n = 37) or wait-list control (n = 33) conditions. All participants were assessed with the Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview Plus at pre-intervention, at 1 week after finishing the intervention and at 5 weeks after finishing the intervention. The main outcome measures were the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (HTQ) and the Impact of Event Scale-Revised. The Beck Depression Inventory and the Hopkins Symptoms Checklist-25 were included as secondary outcome measures. The Trial Registration no. is NCT01847742.

Results: Mixed-model analyses adjusted for the baseline scores indicated a significant effect of group at post-treatment indicating that the EMDR therapy group showed a significantly larger reduction of PTSD symptoms as assessed with the HTQ. Similar findings were found on the other outcome measures. There was no effect of time or group × time interaction on any measure, showing that the difference between the groups at the post-treatment was maintained to the 5-week follow-up.

Conclusions: EMDR may be effective in reducing PTSD and depression symptoms among Syrian refugees with PTSD located in a refugee camp.

Keywords: Depression; eye movement desensitization and reprocessing; post-traumatic stress disorder; refugees.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Refugees / psychology*
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*
  • Syria
  • Turkey

Associated data