Rape Crisis Center of Paducah
Child Advocacy Center of Paducah
Sexual Abuse Education

What is EMDR?

What is EMDR?

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. This evidenced based practice is a treatment modality which we believe is important for all PASAC therapists to be trained in due to its high success rate when treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). An abbreviated description of PTSD according the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV indicates that the person experiences a traumatic event, the event is persistently re-experienced by the individual through multiple ways such as intrusive thoughts or flashbacks , there is an avoidance of trauma related reminders, negative thoughts and arousal/reactivity worsen following the traumatic experience, these symptoms last longer than one month, and they impair one’s ability to function in some important area of their life (Force, DSM-IV, Frances, & Association, 2000). More than half of women and men report experiencing at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. It is estimated that approximately 12% of adult women have experienced completed rape and that twice as many women have experienced childhood sexual abuse than adult rape. Sexual abuse is a strong predictor of PSTD for both men and women. (Van Der Kolket al, 2007). In a ground breaking study by Bessel Van Der Kolk et al. in 2007 they found EMDR to be significantly more effective at treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) than medication or the control group and had longer lasting positive effects. After only three sessions of EMDR 58% of the participants were symptom free six months later compared to zero of the participants who had received the medication, Fluoxetine (Van Der Kolk et al, 2007).

We know that EMDR is helpful for many people experiencing PTSD symptomology, but what is it exactly? Dr. Francine Shapiro, the creator of EMDR, reports walking through the park one day and observing that some disturbing thoughts and stress reactions she was having seemed to suddenly dissipate while her eyes inadvertently swept back and forth.  Through the combination of bilateral stimulation (through eye-movement, tapping, or auditory stimulation) and elements of cognitive behavioral therapy, EMDR can often help individuals process their trauma to resolution and release the overwhelming negative emotions, sensations, and cognitions attached to the memory. This does not mean that the individuals forget their trauma, but by being able to process the trauma in a safe environment, individuals often feel as if the trauma has less power over them and that the traumatic experience feels more securely placed in the past. This can allow the person to live more in the present moment unburdened by pervasive negative cognitions relating to the self.

Before any type of trauma processing, be it through EMDR or through the creation of a trauma narrative, it is important to make sure that the individual feels regulated and resourced enough to tolerate this exposure. For this reason EMDR protocol also includes many resourcing strategies such as safe place instillation, grounding exercises, and resource enhancement techniques. Here at PASAC we incorporate other forms of resourcing and coping skills training such as diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness techniques, essential oils, biofeedback, and expressive arts to meet each individual client’s need.

If you are interested in learning more about EMDR for the treatment of sexual trauma feel free to contact our center to speak with one of our therapists at 270-534-4422.





Van Der Kolk et al., B. (2007). A Randomized Clinical Trial of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Fluoxetine, and Pill Placebo in the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Treatment Effects and Long-Term Maintenance. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry68,

Force, the T., DSM-IV, Frances, A., & Association, the A. P. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders DSM-IV-TR (4th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

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