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Utilization of EMDR in the Treatment of Sexual Addiction: A Case Study

NCJ Number
Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity Volume: 14 Issue: 1 Dated: 2007 Pages: 1-20
Ruth P. Cox; Michael D. Howard
Date Published
20 pages
Using a case study, this paper demonstrates the potential usefulness of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is commonly found in clients with sexual addiction, defined as the obsessive use of sexual stimulation in order to numb and escape from persistent painful feelings and emptiness.
EMDR, which was developed in 1987 by Dr. Francine Shapiro, has gained widespread acceptance by much of the clinical community for treating the effects of trauma linked with shame. EMDR views dysfunctional behavior as originating from traumatic past incidents. These incidents are targeted by the clinician and then processed and integrated so as to produce adaptive and functional behaviors. EMDR is a synthesis of traditional counseling orientations. The complex and integrative procedures and protocols incorporate elements of all the major psychological traditions. The adaptive resolution of the source of the pain and emptiness associated with the addictive sexual behavior involved integrating and using an individual's experience in a constructive manner as part of a positive emotional and cognitive schema. EMDR uses dual attention or bilateral stimulation to process the dysfunctional memory, which enables the memory to be stored in a manner that is functional and productive. When Shapiro first developed EMDR, the emphasis was on the need for eye movements in the healing process. Later research and clinical application showed that other mechanisms could just as effectively produce the bilateral stimulation necessary for therapeutic progress. These included tapping of the knees, legs, or hands, auditory tones, and even pulsating devices that the client holds in his/her hands. The case study shows how dual attention stimulation is used as EMDR progresses from the initial phase through the eight phases of the treatment process for a sexual addiction. 81 references