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EMDR is effective in the treatment of chronic depression

Depression is the condition considered to bear the most significant responsibility for health reduction worldwide, due to its prevalence and its chronic and recurrent nature (WHO, 2017). Depression affects more than 300 million people worldwide and continued research into possible treatments is a high global health priority.

Several previous studies and literature reviews have shown that EMDR is an effective treatment for depression where it is comorbid with PTSD.  This first major multi-centred randomised controlled trial, which took place in Spain and Italy, shows that EMDR is also an effective treatment for chronic recurrent depression.

The European Depression EMDR Network has published a seven-year study into the effectiveness of EMDR compared with CBT.  This study was a non-inferiority, randomised controlled clinical trial of patients with a recurrent depressive disorder.

Inclusion criteria were: a diagnosis of recurrent depressive disorder (this could be chronic depression of at least two years’ duration), aged between 18 and 65 years, a score of at least 13 on Beck’s Depression Inventory and having previously received treatment for at least four weeks. This group of 82 individuals were divided into two groups for ‘treatment as usual’. One group was treated using traditional CBT. The other group was treated using the EMDR.

The EMDR treatment was delivered by six psychotherapists (3 in each centre), qualified in Level II EMDR, with a minimum of 3 years’ practising experience.  After receiving a program of treatment (10 to 18 sessions), 66 patients were considered to have completed treatment. Various tests were then used to determine the rate of depressive symptoms and the time frame of their reduction.

Across the 66 who completed, no significant difference was discovered between those treated with CBT and those treated with EMDR. This means that all 66 patients found their symptoms decreased equally, regardless of which treatment was used.  This implies that EMDR is equally as effective as CBT in the treatment of chronic depression. CBT is presently one of the most widely used treatments for depression.  This study indicates that EMDR may also become as commonly used in the future.

(Ostacoli et al 2018 Comparison of EMDR and CBT as Adjunctive Treatments for Recurrent Depression EDEN RCT)