World Health Organization (WHO) recommends EMDR in new guidelines

The World Health Organization (WHO) is expanding its global program for mental health by including care for post-traumatic stress disorder, acute stress and bereavement, after numerous requests from professionals to provide guidance for mental health care after trauma.

The new protocol and guidelines are intended to provide effective mental health care for adults and children exposed to trauma or loss of a loved one. Primary health care providers will now be able to offer basic support consistent with the best available evidence.

According to WHO data , trauma after violence and loss of loved ones are common in people’s lives. A study conducted by WHO in 21 countries, found that more than 10% of respondents reported witnessing violence (21.8%) or experiencing interpersonal violence (18.8%), accidents (17.7%), exposure to war (16.2%) or trauma to a loved one (12.5%). An estimated 3.6% of the world’s population has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the previous year, the study showed.

A new protocol for psychological frontline help

The new protocol has been co-published with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ( UNHCR). With this new protocol, primary health care workers will be better able to provide basic psychosocial support to refugees as well as people exposed to trauma or loss in other situations.

The guidelines include: psychological first aid, stress management, positive coping methods and mobilization of social supports.

In addition, WHO recommends to refer people suffering from post-traumatic stress to advanced treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or a new approach called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) .

Trauma focused CBT and EMDR therapy are recommended for children, adolescents and adults with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) .

“Like CBT with a trauma focus, EMDR therapy aims to reduce subjective distress and strengthen adaptive cognitions related to the traumatic event. Unlike CBT with a trauma focus, EMDR does not involve (a) detailed descriptions of the event, (b) direct challenging of beliefs, (c) extended exposure, or (d) homework.”

Both techniques help people reduce vivid, unwanted, repeated recollections of traumatic events. More training and supervision is recommended to make these techniques more widely available.

Source : World Health Organization, News release, 6 August 2013 | GENEVA