Randomized Controlled Trial: Provision of EMDR Protocol for Recent Critical Incidents and Ongoing Traumatic Stress to First Responders
This randomized controlled trial aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Protocol for Recent Critical Incidents and Ongoing Traumatic Stress (EMDR-PRECI) in reducing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression symptoms related to the work of first responders on active duty. Participants were randomly assigned to two 60-minute individual treatment sessions (N = 30) or to a no-treatment control condition (N = 30). They completed pre-, post-, and follow-up measurements using the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5) (PCL-5) and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). Data analysis by repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) showed clear effects of the EMDR-PRECI in reducing PTSD work-related symptoms in the treatment group with symptom reduction maintained at 90-day follow-up with a large effect size (d = 3.99), while participants continued to experience direct exposure to potentially traumatic work-related events during the follow-up period. Data analysis by repeated measures ANOVA revealed a significant interaction between time and group, F (2,116) = 153.83, p < .001, ηP2 = .726 for PTSD, and for anxiety F (1,58) = 37.40, p < .005, ηP2 = .090, but not for depression. A t-test showed a clear decrease for depression symptoms for the treatment group with statistically significant results. The study results suggest that the EMDR-PRECI could be an efficient and effective way to address first responders' work-related PTSD, anxiety and depression symptoms. Future research is recommended to replicate these results and to investigate if symptom improvement also results in the reduction of physical health symptoms and early retirement for PTSD-related reasons among first responders.