Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: what works in children with posttraumatic stress symptoms? A randomized controlled trial
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- Diehle, J., Opmeer, B.C., Boer, F. et al. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry (2015) 24: 227. doi:10.1007/s00787-014-0572-5
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To prevent adverse long-term effects, children who suffer from posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) need treatment. Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) is an established treatment for children with PTSS. However, alternatives are important for non-responders or if TF-CBT trained therapists are unavailable. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a promising treatment for which sound comparative evidence is lacking. The current randomized controlled trial investigates the effectiveness and efficiency of both treatments. Forty-eight children (8–18 years) were randomly assigned to eight sessions of TF-CBT or EMDR. The primary outcome was PTSS as measured with the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for Children and Adolescents (CAPS-CA). Secondary outcomes included parental report of child PTSD diagnosis status and questionnaires on comorbid problems. The Children’s Revised Impact of Event Scale was administered during the course of treatment. TF-CBT and EMDR showed large reductions from pre- to post-treatment on the CAPS-CA (−20.2; 95 % CI −12.2 to −28.1 and −20.9; 95 % CI −32.7 to −9.1). The difference in reduction was small and not statistically significant (mean difference of 0.69, 95 % CI −13.4 to 14.8). Treatment duration was not significantly shorter for EMDR (p = 0.09). Mixed model analysis of monitored PTSS during treatment showed a significant effect for time (p < 0.001) but not for treatment (p = 0.44) or the interaction of time by treatment (p = 0.74). Parents of children treated with TF-CBT reported a significant reduction of comorbid depressive and hyperactive symptoms. TF-CBT and EMDR are effective and efficient in reducing PTSS in children.