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Open Access Integrated Trauma Treatment in Drug Court: Combining EMDR Therapy and Seeking Safety

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Trauma and co-occurring substance use disorders are disproportionately prevalent in individuals involved in the criminal justice system. The Thurston County Drug Court Program (TCDCP) in Washington State conducted a preliminary study with 220 participants arrested for nonviolent, felony drug-related crimes. All TCDCP participants were required to engage in a structured 12- to 18-month 3-phase program referred to as Program as Usual (PAU). Data was collected from 2004 to 2009 to investigate the efficacy of adding an “Integrated Trauma Treatment Program” (ITTP) component for those endorsing a Criterion A trauma history (68% of TCDCP). The ITTP combined 2 empirically supported trauma therapies in a phased, integrated approach: mandatory Seeking Safety groups followed by voluntary, individual eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. The investigators hypothesized that traumaspecific treatment might improve existing program outcomes, including higher graduation rates and lower postprogram recidivism. One hundred twelve of the initial 150 participants endorsing trauma completed the Seeking Safety groups and were offered individual EMDR therapy. Of those 112, those who selected EMDR therapy (n = 65) graduated at a rate of 91%; those who declined (n = 47) graduated at 57%. Recidivism rates also differed among TCDCP graduates: PAU, 10%; graduates selecting EMDR therapy, 12%; and graduates declining EMDR, 33%. This article summarizes the literature, describes the ITTP program, reports on graduation rates and recidivism outcomes, and discusses possible differences between those who selected and those who declined EMDR therapy. The authors discuss the benefits of including EMDR therapy in drug court programs with recommendations for future research.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2015

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