A randomized comparison of CBT and EMDR for disaster-exposed children
Background: Building on previous research with disaster-exposed children and adolescents, a randomized clinical trial was performed in the treatment of trauma-related symptoms. In the current study two active treatments were compared among children in a broad age range and from a wide diversity of ethnic populations.
Objective: The primary aim was to compare the effectiveness and efficiency of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).
Design: Children (n52, aged 418) were randomly allocated to either CBT (n26) or EMDR (n26) in a disaster mental health after-care setting after an explosion of a fireworks factory. All children received up to four individual treatment sessions over a 48 week period along with up to four sessions of parent guidance. Blind assessment took place pre- and post-treatment and at 3 months follow-up on a variety of parent-rated and self-report measures of post-traumatic stress disorder symptomatology, depression, anxiety, and behavior problems. Analyses of variance (general linear model repeated measures) were conducted on the intention-to-treat sample and the completers.
Results: Both treatment approaches produced significant reductions on all measures and results were maintained at follow-up. Treatment gains of EMDR were reached in fewer sessions.
Conclusion: Standardized CBT and EMDR interventions can significantly improve functioning of disaster-exposed children.