Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) in the treatment of sex offenders


Most sex offenders in treatment in the United States understand and adapt well to the predominantly cognitive/behavioral/relapse prevention (RP) aspects of their treatment. "No more victims" is the fundamental goal of sex offender treatment, and due to this focus on relapse prevention, most sex offenders do not adequately address their own emotional wounding from early trauma and victimization. This author believes these unresolved affective issues lead to the cognitive distortions and justifications that allow sex offenders to give themselves permission to offend in the first place. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapeutic intervention that assists in rapidly resolving troubling thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. Incorporating EMDR into the current cognitive/behavioral/relapse prevention (RP) treatment model for sex offender treatment opens the possibility of reducing the reoffense rate in society. In this study, affective issues of adult male sex offenders (n = 27) were addressed, employing EMDR; this comprised the experimental treatment group. The experimental group received a pretest, three EMDR sessions, and a posttest over an average time of 3.8 months. The Multiphasic Sex Inventory (MSI) was the measure used for this research. The three scales on that test designed to measure for thinking errors were: the Cognitive Distortion and Immaturity (CDI Scale; the Justification (Ju) Scale; and the Treatment Attitudes (TA) Scale. Archived pretest/posttest scores of randomly selected and anonymous adult male sex offenders comprised the control group (n = 27). This group was tested on the MSI and MSI 2 before entering Module 4 and after finishing Module 5, representing 22.5 months of treatment pretest/posttest. All control and experimental group subjects took part in a mandated cognitive/behavioral/relapse prevention (RP) program. The independent two-sample t test was used to compare two means utilizing the rate of change between the experimental and control group. The results of the study indicate a statistically significant reduction in justifications for offender behavior in the experimental group on the Ju scale (p-value = 0.008). On the CDI and TA scale, the null hypotheses were supported.






Patricia Ann Finley

Original Work Citation

Finley, P. A. (2003, April). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) in the treatment of sex offenders. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 63(10-B), 4912



“Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) in the treatment of sex offenders,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed October 28, 2021, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/15438.

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