An exploratory study of the effects of EMDR on state/trait anxiety and anger in adult male sex offenders


The purpose of this exploratory study was to investigate the effects of EMDR on state and trait anxiety and anger levels associated with developmental traumas of sexual offenders in outpatient sex offender treatment. A qualitative component explored the participants' perceptions of their therapy experiences as helpful in resolving problematic reactive behaviors linked with the developmental traumas and other negative life experiences. The male participants ranged in age from 20 to 49 and were self-selected from a purposive sample of clients receiving treatment in an outpatient sex offender program in Southwest Florida. From this sample group, N = 17, the study participants were randomly assigned to one of two treatment modalities, EMDR or CBT. This exploratory study utilized a quasi-experimental, mixed methods format to analyze the effects of EMDR on state/trait anxiety and anger levels. The study utilized both quantitative and qualitative research strategies to acquire what Webster and Marshall (2004) described as "the clearest, fullest picture of behavior" (p. 118). The quantitative analysis of data obtained from the pre and post-testing found no significant differences between the treatment groups in reducing state/trait anxiety and anger levels. The analysis of the qualitative interview data revealed four core themes: Treatment Efficacy, Emotional Processing, Therapeutic Alliance, and Empowerment. The emergent themes of emotional processing and the therapeutic alliance have not been fully explored in sex offender therapy and may warrant further scrutiny. Additionally, processing of developmental traumas and past victimization has been avoided or minimized in standard cognitive-behavioral sex offender treatment contrary to more recent research findings that identify attachment problems and intimacy deficits as key dynamic risk factors associated with sexual recidivism (Adams, 2003). The field of sex offender therapy may benefit from future research that investigates the role of trauma resolution in mitigating dynamic risk factors that are linked with recidivistic sexual violence. EMDR may serve as an adjunctive therapy to assist sexual offenders to effectively process developmental wounds and in so doing target dynamic risk factors by improving their ability to emotionally self-regulate and enhance their ability to more fully experience victim empathy and improve interpersonal relationships. Future sex offender research may benefit from more expanded investigations of EMDR and other limbic therapies.






William Richard Boyer

Original Work Citation

Boyer, W. R. (2008). An exploratory study of the effects of EMDR on state/trait anxiety and anger in adult male sex offenders. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 68(10-B), 6951



“An exploratory study of the effects of EMDR on state/trait anxiety and anger in adult male sex offenders,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed September 24, 2021,

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