This study compared the efficacy and response patterns of trauma-focused cognitive–behavioural therapy (CBT) modality brief eclectic psychotherapy with eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing therapy (EMDR) for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Brief eclectic psychotherapy was chosen over other forms of trauma focussed CBT because it explicitly combines psychoeducation, imaginal exposure, cognitive restructuring and writing assignments. Out-patients with PTSD were recruited from an Amsterdam clinic and randomly assigned to brief eclectic psychotherapy (n = 70) or EMDR (n = 70) and assessed at all sessions on self-reported PTSD (Impact of Event Scale – Revised). Other outcomes were clinician-rated PTSD, anxiety and depression. Both treatments were equally effective in reducing PTSD symptom severity. However the response pattern indicated that EMDR produced a significantly sharper decline in PTSD symptoms than brief eclectic psychotherapy, with similar drop-out rates (EMDR: n = 20 (29%), brief eclectic psychotherapy: n = 25 (36%)). It is concluded that although both treatments are effective, EMDR results in a faster recovery compared to the more gradual improvement with brief eclectic psychotherapy.