Is There a Better Way to Treat PTSD?

PTSD treatment can be successful through multiple techniques

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder appears in 9 to 14 percent of people who experience an event in which they feel completely helpless to inescapable danger. This means everyone, not just soldiers, may experience this type of stress.

Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR) are both proven treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

But there is little research that compares these two kinds of therapy.

"Ask your therapist about treating PTSD."

Dr. Mirjam Nijdam, PhD of the Academic Medical Center at the University of Amsterdam assembled a team to determine which treatment of the two had the best results for people with PTSD.

For the purpose of the study, the researchers administered a type of trauma-focused CBT shown to be very effective called brief eclectic psychotherapy.

This process includes several techniques such as: psychoeducation, imagining the traumatic event, thought-restructuring and writing assignments.

EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a newer therapy that involves imagining the traumatic event while the therapist guides the client through a reprocessing activity – in this case, having the client move his eyes back and forth to follow an object.

Previous research has shown that the act of a person’s vision crossing the midline of the brain helps with the emotional processing of an event, making a traumatic event less powerful.

Adult individuals with PTSD were randomly assigned to one of the two types of therapy. The researchers measured results through clinician-rated PTSD, anxiety and depression scales. The participants also gave self-reports.

In order to qualify, the participants had to be diagnosed with PTSD that resulted from a single traumatic event.

The participants attended either weekly EMDR or brief eclectic psychotherapy sessions for a 17-week period.

The study showed that both treatments were equally effective, but those receiving EMDR responded more quickly than those using CBT. The trauma symptoms began to disappear earlier during the EMDR treatment and recovery was generally faster.

This study was published online in February in the British Journal of Psychiatry and was funded by the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam.

One of the authors is a director of a trauma treatment unit, is paid to teach on the subject of psychological trauma and is also affiliated with the University of Amsterdam. No other statements of interest were made.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 6, 2012
Last Updated:
September 8, 2012