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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing in Young Children (Ages 4–8) with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Multiple-Baseline Evaluation

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A Correction to this article was published on 22 September 2021

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To reduce the acute and long-term effects of trauma, early and effective treatment is necessary. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a brief treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with a substantial evidence base for children and adolescents aged 8 to 18 years. In the present study we aimed to provide preliminary evidence of EMDR as a trauma treatment for young children. We studied 9 children, aged 4 to 8 years old with a DSM-5 diagnosis of PTSD. A non-concurrent multiple baseline experimental design was used combined with standardized measures. Participants received six 1-h sessions of EMDR. Results post-treatment showed that EMDR was effective in reaching diagnostic remission of PTSD (85.7%), and decreasing severity of PTSD symptoms and emotional and behavioral problems. All gains were maintained at follow-up 3 months after treatment. EMDR appears an effective treatment for PTSD in young children aged 4 to 8 years. Further research is warranted.

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  1. The Single-Case Reporting Guideline in Behavioural Interventions, SCRIBE [22] was applied in this article. The SCRIBE guideline describes a set of 26 items to guide and structure the reporting of SCED research.

  2. In the Netherlands, all children require a referral by the general practitioner, medical specialists or specialized youth teams in order to receive treatment.

  3. The design meets 12 of the 15 items, it was not possible to incorporate blinding of the therapists or assessor and inter-rater reliability, since only the primary caregiver filled in the daily diary.


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Correspondence to Eline Olivier.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest receives income for training postdoctoral professionals in EMDR. The other authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Institutional and National Research Committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The study was approved by the Medical Ethics Committee of the Erasmus Medical Centre NL66334.078.18.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual caregivers included in this study.

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Eline Olivier: no longer employed at GGZ Delfland.



See Tables 4 and 5.

Table 4 Trauma Symptom Checklist for Young Children (TSCYC), T-scores determined pre-treatment, post-treatment and at 3-month follow-up, and reliable change indices (RCI), per participant
Table 5 Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ): Total Difficulty Score determined at pre-treatment, post-treatment and 3-month follow-up and reliable change indices (RCI) at post-treatment and 3-month follow-up, compared to pre-treatment, per participant

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Olivier, E., de Roos, C. & Bexkens, A. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing in Young Children (Ages 4–8) with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Multiple-Baseline Evaluation. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev 53, 1391–1404 (2022).

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