Learned helplessness (LH) is considered a psychological trait, which occurs after repeated exposure to aversive and uncontrollable situations (Seligman, 1975). Such an exposure is found to lead motivational, cognitive, and emotional deficits. LH has also been linked to different psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and trauma-related depression. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy has been accepted as an efficacious treatment for PTSD, but evidence for its effectiveness as an early intervention is still preliminary. Also, there is some uncertainty regarding the role of eye movements in EMDR. The current randomized controlled study investigated whether a single 15-minute session of EMDR’s Recent Traumatic Episode Protocol (R-TEP) could reduce the effects of laboratory-induced LH. The study further investigated whether R-TEP without eye movements would have the same effect. Using established experimental tasks, an LH state was induced via unsolvable maze tasks with effects measured by the participants’ performance in solving anagrams. Results revealed that an LH state was successfully induced by the unsolvable mazes. R-TEP effectively reversed the negative effects of the LH state and was significantly more effective than no treatment controls and the R-TEP condition without eye movements, which was essentially a narrative exposure intervention. Results suggest that R-TEP can be successfully administered immediately following a distressful event, and that eye movements appear to be a necessary component of EMDR in reversing the cognitive, motivational, and/or emotional deficits induced by LH.
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Eğeci, İ. S., & Özgün, S. (2019). Randomized Controlled Trial: EMDR Early Intervention With and Without Eye Movements for Learned Helplessness State. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 13(2), 90–99. https://doi.org/10.1891/1933-3188.8.131.52
Journal of EMDR Practice and Research