EMDR protocol for treating sexual dysfunction



Sex therapists use different techniques to treat sexual dysfunction successfully. Often, however, they encounter clients who are able to understand rationally why they are suffering from a particular sexual dysfunction, and who are unable to overcome the visceral reactions that compromise their sexual functioning. This chapter demonstrates a sex therapist's utilization of EMDR—within the context of the 3-pronged approach to target issues related to sexual dysfunction. The EMDR can be used successfully to desensitize reactions related to negative sexual experiences; to facilitate reprocessing of these memories; to target triggers, stimuli, and situations in present functioning; to address anticipatory fears; and to install positive sexual functioning in the future. The first part of this protocol addresses both large "T" Trauma and small "t" trauma events that occurred in the past and relate to an individual's sexuality that can affect their sexual functioning in present time. For instance, a girl who is caught and reprimanded for masturbating may experience an overwhelming sense of shame well into her adult life. This internalized shame, which could be assessed as a small "t," may affect her sexual functioning later in adulthood. Although, the adult client may be able to develop insight into the impact of the trauma on her sexual adjustment, she may not be able to overcome the involuntary responses of her body, such as being inorgasmic, having low sexual desire, and so forth. EMDR can be used to desensitize that involuntary response and help her reprocess the negative cognition related to her childhood trauma. Once the negative cognition is reprocessed then the positive cognition may be installed. In these cases, the therapist focuses on traumatic sexual events during the Assessment Phase. The therapist can begin by asking the client to list 10 or more traumatic sexual events. Sexual dysfunction is a very vast area of study. Each sexual dysfunction has its own diagnostic criteria, assessment, and treatment. It is very important for clinicians to gain enough training and supervision in sex therapy before using this protocol. Clinicians need to feel comfortable with their own sexuality in order to address sexual problems in clients. Clinicians who have not addressed their own inhibitions, guilt or shame about their sexuality may cause harm to clients and to themselves. This protocol works best within the context of ongoing couple therapy and sex therapy.


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Sabitha Pillai-Friedman

Original Work Citation



“EMDR protocol for treating sexual dysfunction,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed September 17, 2021, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/19216.

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