Pre-post study to assess EMDR-based group therapy for traumatized refugee preschoolers


Cross-culturally effective, low-threshold therapies for refugees that can be carried out quickly are urgently required. Worldwide, therapies are lacking, particularly for preschool refugee children, which support coping and prevent chronification of posttraumatic stress. This pilot study examined eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)-based group treatment for preschool refugee children in German daycare centers. Ten refugee preschool children aged 4–6 years (n = 5 female) with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms took part in an EMDR-based group treatment (with 2–4 children per group). PTSD symptoms were rated by parents and preschool teachers using items from the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL 1½–5), pre- and posttreatment, and at 3-month follow-up. After treatment children tended to display less fear of animals or situations than before treatment. According to preschool teachers’ perspective, the total number of PTSD symptoms dropped significantly at posttreatment (d = .93) and at follow-up (d = .81). Before the intervention, preschool teachers rated the children as being more defiant than their parents did (p = .020). After the intervention, the PTSD symptoms of boys were significantly higher than those of girls (p = .036) according to preschool teachers. The results indicate that timely psychotherapeutic interventions can be conducted with refugee children displaying PTSD symptoms in daycare centers. The efficacy of this intervention needs to be studied in a larger sample under controlled randomized conditions.






Daniela Lempertz
Michelle Wichmann
Esther Enderle Silke Pawils
Franka Metzner

Original Work Citation

Lempertz, D., Wichmann, M., Pawils, E. E. S., & Metzner, F. (2020). Pre-post study to assess EMDR-based group therapy for traumatized refugee preschoolers. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 14(1), 31-45. doi:10.1891/1933-3196.14.1.31



“Pre-post study to assess EMDR-based group therapy for traumatized refugee preschoolers,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed May 28, 2020,

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