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Eur J Psychotraumatol. 2017 Oct 9;8(1):1375838. doi: 10.1080/20008198.2017.1375838. eCollection 2017.

Participant experiences of Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing vs. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for grief: similarities and differences.

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Department of Psychology and Exercise Science, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia.
Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia.


in English, Chinese, Spanish

Background and Objective: Previous research has used quantitative methods to assess the impact of grief therapy. However, rarely have participants been asked about how they have been affected by treatment using qualitative methods. This study sought to explore participants' experiences of two therapeutic approaches to grief: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR). Method: Nineteen participants were randomly allocated to receive seven weekly therapy sessions of either CBT or EMDR. Approximately two weeks after completing therapy, a semi-structured interview was conducted with each participant. Interviews were transcribed and a thematic analysis was performed. Results: Participant reports common to both therapies included developments in insight, a positive shift in emotions, increased activity, improved self-confidence and a healthier mental relationship to the deceased. Participants also responded by describing experiences that were unique to each therapy. Those who completed CBT described the acquisition of emotion regulation tools and shifting from being in an ongoing state of grief to feeling that they were at a new stage in their lives. Participants who completed EMDR reported that distressing memories were less clear and felt more distant from such memories following treatment. Conclusions: Although both therapies resulted in some similar changes for participants, there were unique experiences associated with each therapy. These findings are discussed in terms of implications for the underlying key processes of each therapy and the processes of recovery in grief.


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy; Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing; Grief; qualitative methods

Conflict of interest statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

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