Using EMDR in the treatment of sexual problems


This presentation is based entirely on my own clinical work and discussions with a few other sex therapists who use it in their work. I am well aware of the lack of solid research to back up my claims and to provide evidence of their generalizability to other clients, therapists, and situations. 1. Why EMDR is used so little in treating common sexual dysfunctions and dissatisfactions. 2. Why EMDR is relevant and appropriate in treating these problems. Everything depends on how we define trauma. If we use a broad definition - one that includes humiliations, embarrassments, anxiety, as well as hurts and wounds -the relevance of EMDR becomes obvious. 3. The kinds of causative and maintaining issues in sex cases that EMDR can be helpful for. These include anticipatory anxiety, unresolved early learnings about intimacy and sexuality, and current and past relationship fears and hurts. 4. Case examples of EMDR in the treatment of dysfunctions and dissatisfactions: orgasm and erection difficulties, rapid ejaculation, and desire/frequency complaints. 5. EMDR and meditation. I have found that for some clients meditation is a valuable adjunct to EMDR. It serves as a safe place for them and has also been helpful in bringing up issues that need work as well as a place to process and integrate material that comes up in EMDR. No special instructions are required; the very act of meditation does the bringing up of issues and processing on its own. 6. Litations of EMDR in dealing with cases of sexual problems. As far as I know, EMDR by itself has not resulted in complete resolution of a presenting sexual problem While extremely helphful in many cases, EMDR has to be viewed as one tool in a comprehensive treatment package. This means that those who use it need to have knowledge of and experience with the tools of sex therapy and marital therapy. EMDR is also limited, as are all therapy methods, by the dynamics of the relationship in which the sexual difficulty exists. While it can help resolve past wounds inflicted by the partner, it will not be effective in the long run if the relationship continues to feel unsafe. 7. There is a critical need for good research to back up claims of EMDR's benefits with sexual cases and to determine exactly how and when to use the method to maximum effect.






Bernie Zilbergeld

Original Work Citation

Zilbergeld, B. (1995, June). Using EMDR in the treatment of sexual problems. Presentation at the EMDR Network Conference, Santa Monica, CA



“Using EMDR in the treatment of sexual problems,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed July 27, 2021,

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