Sequence matters: Combining Prolonged Exposure and EMDR therapy for PTSD

Psychiatry Research

Agnes van Minnen, Eline M. Voorendonk, Linda Rozendaal, Ad de Jongh

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2020.113032

Objective: Investigating the influence of the sequence in which two evidence-based trauma-focused treatments are offered to PTSD-patients.

Methods: PTSD-patients were treated using an intensive eight-day treatment program, combining Prolonged Exposure (PE) and EMDR therapy. Forty-four patients received a PE session in the morning and an EMDR session in the afternoon, while 62 patients received the reversed sequence (EMDR followed by PE). Outcome measures were PTSD symptom severity and subjective experiences.

Results: Patients who received PE first and EMDR second showed a significantly greater reduction in PTSD symptoms. Patients preferred this sequence and valued the treatment sessions as significantly more helpful compared to patients in the EMDR-first condition.

Conclusion: The results of this explorative study are supportive of the notion that PE and EMDR therapy can be successfully combined, and that sequence matters. First applying PE sessions before EMDR sessions resulted in better treatment outcome, and better subjective patient’s evaluations in terms of treatment helpfulness and preference.

Received 29 January 2020, Revised 20 April 2020, Accepted 20 April 2020, Available online 16 May 2020.

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