Eye movement desentization and reprocessing: A case study of a female adolescent sexual assault survivor


This study explores the use of Eye Movement Desensitisation (hereafter referred to as EMDR), a form of psychotherapy on a female adolescent sexual assault survivor. Adolescence as a developmental stage is characterised by specific issues, such as the search for own identity. Sexual trauma may increase the inner conflict, because of the adolescent's ability to deal with the trauma at a higher cognitive level than in earlier childhood. Without support including psychotherapy, the adolescent sexual assault survivor may be at risk of developing mental health problems including Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome (hereafter referred to as PTSD). This research is a qualitative case study, involving only one adolescent participant. Mary (pseudonym) a sexual assault survivor, was selected from referrals the Unit for Educational Psychology at the University of Stellenbosch received from the Child Protection Unit of the South African Police Services. She was referred because she displayed symptoms of depression and PTSD, which affected her relations with her parents, siblings and peers. She also struggled to cope emotionally with the academic demands of school. The ecosystemic approach was chosen as the preferred framework within which to locate this study. In assessment and intervention this framework lends itself to focussing on relationships and systems rather than merely the individual with a problem. The study explores the use of EMDR to alleviate symptoms of depression and PTSD in Mary. She attended thirteen sessions of which the first three were used to assess her level of functioning. Data were collected by means of self-report questionnaires including the Beck's Depression Inventory and the Dissociative Experiences Scale, interviews and therapy sessions during which EMDR was used. The data were analysed using codes, categories and themes, interpreted and the study concluded with a discussion of the findings. The findings suggest that EMDR effectively alleviated Mary's symptoms of depression and PTSD. However, since the study was limited to a single participant, a larger sample is recommended to determine whether EMDR might be a feasible treatment tool for female adolescent sexual assault survivors.






Stephen Clive Vearey

Original Work Citation

Vearey, S. C. (2004). Eye movement desentization and reprocessing: A case study of a female adolescent sexual assault survivor. (Master?s thesis, University of Stellenbosch). Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/49963



“Eye movement desentization and reprocessing: A case study of a female adolescent sexual assault survivor,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed April 12, 2021, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/22344.

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