EMDR and Sex Offenders

Submitted by Nina M. Riccio on January 8, 2013

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), an evidence-based treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder, has the potential to reduce the disturbing symptoms associated with traumatic memories as well as process and assimilate adverse life experiences. It is included in many national and international practice guidelines as one of the best treatments for PTSD.  It is also used for many other problems such as depression, eating, relationship problems, chronic pain, and other anxiety disorders.

Dr. Kate Wheeler,  APRN-BC, FAAN, received $10,000 from the EMDR Research Foundation to support a study using EMDR to treat paroled sex offenders who have suffered childhood sexual abuse and who are mandated to participate in cognitive behavioral groups. Ultimately, the aim is to reduce recidivism and redirect the offender’s sexual expression into socially and legally accepted outlets.

“Trauma causes the memory to become fragmented. Sometimes the memory is recalled in flashbacks or somatic symptoms,” Dr. Wheeler explains. “EMDR facilitates the reconnection of these memory fragments and helps the traumatic memory link to link up to adaptive memory networks.”

Dr. Wheeler is president-elect of the EMDR International Association, an interdisciplinary group of mental health providers who are EMDR clinicians and researchers.

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