A pilot study of brief eye movement desensitization and reprossessing (EMDR) for treatment of acute phase schizophrenia


Objectives: Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing(EMDR) is a novel, time-limited psychotherapy originally developed for treatment of psychological trauma. The effectiveness of this therapy has been validated only for posttraumatic stress disorder; however, EMDR is often applied to other psychiatric illnesses, including other anxiety disorders and depression. This pilot study tested the efficacy of EMDR added to the routine treatment for individuals with acute stage schizophrenia. Methods: This study was conducted in the acute psychiatric care unit of a university-affiliated training hospital. Inpatients diagnosed with schizophrenia were randomly assigned to either three sessions of EMDR, three sessions of progressive muscle relaxation(PMR) therapy, or only treatment as usual(TAU). All the participants received concurrent typical treatments(TAU), including psychotropic medication, individual supportive psychotherapy and group activities in the psychiatric ward. The Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale(PANSS), the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale and the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale were administered by a clinical psychologist who was blinded to the patients' group assignment. Results: Forty-five patients enrolled and forty patients(89%) completed the post-treatment evaluation. There were no between-group differences in the withdrawal rates of patients during the treatment or at the three-month follow-up session. All three groups improved significantly across each of the symptomatic domains including schizophrenia, anxiety, and depressive symptoms. However, a repeated measures ANOVA revealed no significant differences among the groups over time. Effect size for change in total PANSS scores was also similar across treatment conditions, but effect size for negative symptoms was large for EMDR(0.60 for EMDR, 0.39 for PMR and 0.21 for TAU only). Conclusion: These findings supported the use of EMDR in treating the acute stage of schizophrenia but the results failed to confirm the effectiveness of the treatment over the two control conditions in three sessions. Further studies with longer courses of treatment, more focused target dimensions of treatment, and a sample of outpatients are necessary.






Daeho Kim
Joonho Choi
Seok Hyeon Kim
Dong-Hoon Oh
Seon-CHeol Park
Sun Hye Lee

Original Work Citation

Kim, D., Choi, J., Kim, S. H., Oh, D.-H., Park, S.-C., & Lee, S. H. (2010, May). A pilot study of brief eye movement desensitization and reprossessing (EMDR) for treatment of acute phase schizophrenia. Korean Journal of Biological Psychiatry, 17(2), 94-102



“A pilot study of brief eye movement desensitization and reprossessing (EMDR) for treatment of acute phase schizophrenia,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed May 31, 2020, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/20593.

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