Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal

, Volume 29, Issue 5, pp 409–425 | Cite as

Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and Trauma: A Review of Randomized Controlled Trials with Children and Adolescents

  • Laura R. GreyberEmail author
  • Catherine N. Dulmus
  • Maria E. Cristalli


This article examines the methodological rigor of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR) conducted specifically with children and adolescents who had a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder and history of trauma. A thorough search for RCTs of EMDR with children and adolescents that were published between 1998 and 2010 was conducted utilizing several databases. A total of five studies were identified. Following an extensive review of the literature, it became apparent that the number of RCTs conducted with EMDR with children and adolescents was negligible, though initial results suggest that it is a promising practice. Although current EMDR studies have been conducted with children and adolescents, and have indicated that EMDR is a promising practice, the state of knowledge at this point is insufficient. EMDR tends to produce less positive results when compared to other trauma-focused interventions, although some research indicates the opposite.


Eye movement desensitization reprocessing Posttraumatic stress disorder Child and adolescent trauma 


  1. Adler-Nevo, G., & Manassis, K. (2005). Psychosocial treatment of pediatric posttraumatic stress disorder: The neglected field of single-incident trauma. Depression and Anxiety, 22, 177–189.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ahmad, A., Larsson, B., & Sundelin-Wahlsten, V. (2007). EMDR treatment for children with PTSD: Results of a randomized controlled trial. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, 61(5), 349–354.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ahmad, A., Larsson, B., & Sundelin-Wahlsten, V. (2008). Applying EMDR on children with PTSD. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 17(3), 127–132.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition, text revision. Arlington, Virginia: American Psychiatric Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bisson, J., & Andrew, M. (2009). Psychological treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Review). The Cochrane collaboration, Issue 1. Retrieved on January 4, 2012.
  6. Butler, L. D., & Wolf, M. R. (2009). Trauma-informed care: Trauma as an organizing principle in the provision of mental health and social services. Trauma Psychology, 4(3), 7–11.Google Scholar
  7. California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare. (2006–2012). Trauma treatment: Child and adolescents. Retrieved from
  8. Chemtob, C. M., Nakashima, J., & Carlson, J. G. (2002). Brief treatment for elementary school children with disaster-related posttraumatic stress disorder: A field study. Journal for Clinical Psychology, 58(1), 99–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Concato, J., Shah, N., & Horwitz, R. I. (2000). Randomized controlled trials, observational studies, and the hierarchy of research designs. The New England Journal of Medicine, 342(25), 1887–1892.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. CONSORT. (2010). CONSORT 2010 checklist of information to include when reporting a randomized trial. Retrieved from
  11. Cusack, K. J., Frueh, B. C., & Brady, K. T. (2004). Trauma history screening in a community mental health center. Psychiatric Services, 55(2), 157–162.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. de Arellano, M. A., & Danielson, C. K. (2008). Assessment of trauma history and trauma-related problems in ethnic minority child populations: An INFORMED approach. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 15, 53–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. DeBell, C., & Jones, R. D. (1997). As good as it seems? A review of EMDR experimental research. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 28(2), 153–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Foa, E. B., Keane, T. M., Friedman, M. J., & Cohen, J. A. (Eds.). (2009). Effective treatments for PTSD: Practice guidelines from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (2nd ed.). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  15. Hodas, G. R. (2006). Responding to childhood trauma: The promise and practice of trauma informed care. Retrieved on August 2010 from the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors from
  16. Hussey, J. M., Chang, J. J., & Kotch, J. B. (2006). Child maltreatment in the United States: Prevalence, risk factors, and adolescent health consequences. Pediatrics, 118(3), 933–942.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jaberghaderi, N., Greenwald, R., Rubin, A., Zand, S. O., & Dolatabadi, S. (2004). A comparison of CBT and EMDR for sexually-abused Iranian girls. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 11, 358–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kemp, M., Drummond, P., & McDermott, B. (2010). A wait-list controlled pilot study of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) for children with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms from motor vehicle accidents. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 15(1), 5–25.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kessler, R. C., Sonnega, A., & Bromet, E. (1995). Posttraumatic stress disorder in the national comorbidity survey. Archives of General Psychiatry, 52, 1048–1060.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Maxfield, L., & Hyer, L. (2002). The relationship between efficacy and methodology in studies investigating EMDR treatment of PTSD. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58, 23–41.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Muris, P., Merckelbach, H., Holdrinet, I., & Sijsenaar, M. (1998). Treating phobic children: Effects of EMDR versus exposure. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66(1), 193–198.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. National Institute of Clinical Excellence. (2005). Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): The management of PTSD in adults and children in primary and secondary care. Retrieved from
  23. National Institute of Mental Health. (2010). Post-traumatic stress disorder among children. Retrieved August 2010 from
  24. Oras, R. Cancela, de Ezpeleta, S., Ahmad, L., & Sundelin-Wahlsten, A. (2004). Treatment of traumatized refugee children with eye movement desensitization and reprocessing in a psychodynamic context. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, 58(3), 199–203.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Rodenburg, R., Benjamin, A., de Roos, C., Meijer, A. M., & Stams, G. J. (2009). Efficacy of EMDR in children: A meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 29, 599–606.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Rubin, A., Bischofshausen, S., Conroy-Moore, K., Dennis, B., Hastie, M., Melnick, L., et al. (2001). The effectiveness of EMDR in a child guidance center. Research on Social Work Practice, 11, 435–457.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Scheck, M. M., Schaeffer, J. A., & Gillette, C. (1998). Brief psychological intervention with traumatized young women: The efficacy of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 11(1), 25–44.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Shapiro, F. (2001). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): Basic principles, protocols, and procedures. New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  29. Shapiro, F. (2002). EMDR and the role of the clinician in psychotherapy evaluation: Towards a more comprehensive integration of science and practice. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58(12), 1453–1463.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Silva, R. R., Cloitre, M., Davis, L., Levitt, J., Gomez, S., Ngai, I., et al. (2003). Psychiatric Quarterly, 74(4), 333–347.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura R. Greyber
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Catherine N. Dulmus
    • 2
  • Maria E. Cristalli
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Social WorkUniversity at BuffaloBuffaloUSA
  2. 2.Buffalo Center for Social Research, School of Social WorkUniversity at BuffaloBuffaloUSA
  3. 3.Hillside Family of AgenciesRochesterUSA

Personalised recommendations