Treating phobic children: Effects of EMDR versus exposure


This study examined the efficacy of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and exposure in the treatment of a specific phobia. 26 spider phobic children were treated during 2 treatment phases. During the first phase, which lasted 2.5 hr, children were randomly assigned to either (a) an EMDR group (n = 9), (b) an exposure in vivo group (n = 9), or (c) a computerized exposure (control) group (n = 8). During the 2nd phase, all groups received a 1.5 hr session of exposure in vivo. Therapy outcome measures (i.e., self-reported fear and behavioral avoidance) were obtained before treatment, after Treatment Phase 1, and after Treatment Phase 2. Results showed that the 2.5 hr exposure in vivo sesson produced significant improvement on all outcome measures. In contrast, EMDR yielded a significant improvement on only self-reported spider fear. Computerized exposure produced nonsignficant improvement. Furthermore, no evidence was found to suggest that EMDR potentiates the efficacy of a subsequent exposure in vivo treatment. Exposure in vivo remains the treatment of choice for childhood spider phobia.






Peter Muris
Harald Merckelbach
Irit Holdrinet
Madelon Sijsenaar

Original Work Citation

Muris, P., Merckelbach, H., Holdrinet, I., & Sijsenaar, M. (1998, February). Treating phobic children: Effects of EMDR versus exposure. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 66(1), 193-198



“Treating phobic children: Effects of EMDR versus exposure,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed October 28, 2020,

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