EMDR, a treatment for sexual assault

EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  It has been used effectively for veterans coming back from war and for others who have experienced trauma, including survivors of childhood sexual abuse and sexual assault at any age. It is a process that stimulates opposite sides of the brain (my therapist tapped alternately on my right and left knees), and breaks up the neural pathways that go from the trigger to the reliving of the trauma.

While the opposite sides of the brain are being stimulated, the therapist takes the client back into the feelings and thoughts of the abuse—back into the trauma—but with some protective distance between the client and it. While there, the client is able to see things differently and begin to modify the beliefs that went along with the abuse (like “it’s all my fault”). The process is continued until the old pathways are cleared. After that, the positive beliefs (the truths) are installed by the same process (like "none of it was my fault").

It is very hard, wrenching work at times, but the results are amazing.  The power of the devastating lies and the potent feelings of the abuse were dramatically lessened. Feelings could of course resurface but not in the same kind of traumatic way they had before. The symptoms of PTSD were greatly reduced. The abuse became a memory for me and not a present trauma. There are therapists specially trained in EMDR. It is something that requires this professional training.  I also had my regular therapist in the room to support me.

I did EMDR ten years after I started working on my abuse. In some ways, I wish I had done the EMDR sooner, but,  given the depression, it took me time to be ready. It is a powerful tool, and has made a huge difference in my healing. In my heart, I no longer believe the terrible lies that came with my abuse. I could see that even though I had sexual feelings during the abuse, it was not my fault in any way. Sometimes the old lies get triggered, but I can much more easily process them.  EMDR, along with a lot of therapy,  enabled me to be where I am today.

 Adapted from my book, Enfolded in Silence /A Story in Art of Healing from Sexual Trauma in Childhood (Amazon.com).

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