Trauma-focused therapy in early psychosis: Results of a feasibility randomised controlled trial of EMDR for Psychosis (EMDRp) in Early Intervention settings

Filippo Varese, William Sellwood, Daniel Pulford , Yvonne Awenat, Leanne Bird, Gita Bhutani, Lesley-Anne Carter, Linda Davies, Saadia Aseem, Claire Davis , Rebecca Hefferman - Clarke, Claire Hilton, Georgia Horne, David Keane, Robin Logie, Debra Malkin, Fiona Potter, David Den Van Berg, Shameem Zia, Richard P. Bentall

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Trauma is prevalent amongst early psychosis patients and associated with adverse outcomes. Past trials of trauma-focused therapy have focused on chronic patients with psychosis/schizophrenia and comorbid Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). We aimed to determine the feasibility of a large-scale randomized controlled trial (RCT) of an Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing for psychosis (EMDRp) intervention for early psychosis service users.

A single-blind RCT comparing 16 sessions of EMDRp + TAU vs TAU only was conducted. Participants completed baseline, 6-month and 12-month post-randomisation assessments. EMDRp and trial assessments were delivered both in-person and remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions. Feasibility outcomes were recruitment and retention, therapy attendance/engagement, adherence to EMDRp treatment protocol, and the ‘promise of efficacy’ of EMDRp on relevant clinical outcomes.

60 participants (100% of the recruitment target) received TAU or EMDR+TAU. 83% completed at least one follow-up assessment, with 74% at 6-month and 70% at 12-month. 74% of EMDRp+TAU participants received at least 8 therapy sessions and 97% rated therapy sessions demonstrated good treatment fidelity. At 6-month, there were signals of promise of efficacy of EMDRp+TAU vs TAU for total psychotic symptoms (PANSS), subjective recovery from psychosis, PTSD symptoms, depression, anxiety and general health status. Signals of efficacy at 12-month were less pronounced but remained robust for PTSD symptoms and general health status.

The trial feasibility criteria were fully met, and EMDRp was associated with promising signals of efficacy on a range of valuable clinical outcomes. A larger-scale, multi-centre trial of EMDRp is feasible and warranted.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2023


  • Randomised controlled trial
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
  • Psychosis
  • Trauma
  • Psychological Therapies


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