Online Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing for complex trauma: A feasibility trial of EMDR and AI-EMDR for attachment-informed complexity

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Image: Christine Ramsey-Wade and Beverly Coghlan, Research Officer from EMDR UK, on the left, after a recent site visit.

Senior Lecturer in Counselling Psychology Christine Ramsey-Wade will be collaborating with EMDR UK to run a pilot feasibility trial, comparing the delivery of two different versions of Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) online for people who have complex trauma histories.

EMDR is a well-established psychotherapy which aims to support clients to process adverse or traumatic life experiences, so that they can re-build their lives.

The aim of the study is to test the feasibility of a research study design for a future randomised controlled trial (RCT) examining the efficacy of online Attachment-Informed EMDR and online standard EMDR for clients with attachment-informed complexity.

The primary research question is whether the proposed RCT design would be feasible for a full trial, seeking to test whether an explicitly attachment-informed approach to EMDR is at least as effective as the Standard Protocol in reducing and reprocessing stories of complex trauma. 

The original or Standard Protocol for EMDR set out eight treatment phases: history-taking, preparation, assessment (including exploring cognitions, beliefs and schemas around the event), desensitisation to the trauma, installation of processing, body scan, closure and re-assessment.  Shapiro (2018) set out the 8-phase treatment model clearly in her original EMDR protocol, which will be used for the active control arm of the RCT design under study in this feasibility trial.

As shame can be a barrier to accessing trauma-focused psychotherapy (Cummings and Baumann, 2021), it is important to continue to research trauma-focused therapies that rely less on verbal accounts of traumatic experiences and the cognitions around this to make services as accessible and effective as possible, which is what this feasibility trial sets out to do.

Christine commented:

“I am delighted to be collaborating with EMDR UK, and in particular the East Anglia branch, on this exciting new research project – the first collaboration between UWE Bristol and EMDR UK.  While the evidence base around EMDR is relatively strong, there is a need for further research on online EMDR and on EMDR for complex trauma.  We also need to show that any variations on the standard protocol are at least as effective as the original.  This project will explore how best to research these areas. ”

More information about Christine Ramsey-Wade.

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