An investigation of the efficacy of eye-movement desensitization in the treatment of cognitive intrusions related to memories of a past stressful event
A novel clinical technique, referred to as "eye-movement desensitization," has recently been reported to rapidly achieve significant reductions in the frequency and intensity of the two primary symptoms of PTSD; cognitive intrusions and the behavioral and emotional avoidance of trauma related fear cues. The current study was intended to provide an experimentally controlled replication of this procedure. The 45 students with the highest scores on a self-report questionnaire were selected for participation in the study and randomly assigned to one of three treatment conditions. These conditions included "eye-movement desensitization," "eye-fixation desensitization," and a non-directive control condition.Sessions One and Three consisted of pretest and posttest assessment respectively, administered by questionnaire and behavioral measures of cognitive intrusions relating to the reported trauma. Session Two, consisted of immediate pretest and posttest assessment of information regarding subjective discomfort, perceived validity of adaptive cognitions, and vividness of images related to the reported trauma. The results of this experiment indicated that treatment-related pretest to posttest change was limited to (a) a relative reduction in cognitive intrusions for the eye-fixation group compared to the other treatment conditions, and (b) initial superiority of both desensitization techniques in immediately reducing subject distress, vividness of the initial image (and for eye-fixation, improved validity of an adaptive cognition) in comparison to the non-directive condition. The latter condition, however, then achieved equivalent gains by one-week follow-up. It was concluded that: (a) the relative efficacy of the eye-movement desensitization technique, was not supported in this non-clinical population, (b) to the degree that the outcomes resulting from the two desensitization conditions were at variance from those of the more traditional non-directive technique, those differences appear to have been predominantly transient in character, and (c) the induction of saccadic eye-movements did not demonstrably function as an active component of treatment within this experimental context. It was additionally concluded that further research will be required to satisfactorily resolve the discrepant findings of experimentation and case reports regarding the efficacy of this technique. Specific suggestions for further research were presented.
Original Work Citation
Lytle, R. A. (1993). An investigation of the efficacy of eye-movement desensitization in the treatment of cognitive intrusions related to memories of a past stressful event. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B. Sciences and Engineering, 54(9), 4926
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