Sex addiction is a complex and often misunderstood behavioral health disorder. It can wreak havoc on a person’s life, affecting their relationships, mental and physical health, finances and professional career. 

Sex addiction often stems from deep-rooted trauma, which can be difficult for people to uncover and process on their own. Enter Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy, commonly referred to as EMDR. 

First developed in the late 1980s, EMDR therapy has since become a globally researched and recognized therapeutic practice capable of achieving significant positive results for people with various mental or behavioral health conditions, including sex addiction and trauma. 

KeyStone Center ECU’s experience with EMDR therapy for sex addiction suggests that there are many potential benefits to using this treatment option. Continue reading to learn more about EMDR, including a basic description of how it works, its stages and its effectiveness in the treatment of sex addiction and the recovery journey.

Understanding Sex Addiction

Sex addiction, also known as compulsive sexual behavior, is a process disorder characterized by persistent thoughts of and escalating patterns of sexual behavior, despite negative consequences to the individual’s life and relationships. 

While not recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as a psychological disorder, sex addiction is a real issue affecting a significant number of individuals. Furthermore, sex addiction is often connected to other mental or behavioral health issues, making it important to address this problematic behavior head on. 

For more information on sex addiction, including its causes, signs and treatment options, check out our comprehensive sex addiction guide.

What is EMDR Therapy?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an evidence-based psychotherapy developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s.  It is a therapeutic technique often used to help alleviate the distress associated with traumatic events and memories. 

Unlike traditional forms of psychotherapy that focus on the content of distressing experiences, EMDR therapy emphasizes focuses on changing the emotions, thoughts or behaviors resulting from the traumatic experience. It’s particularly effective in treating conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and conditions stemming from trauma, such as sex addiction and intimacy issues.

How Does EMDR Work?

EMDR therapy works on the premise that our brain  has an inherent ability to heal, similar to how our bodies recover from physical trauma. However, certain traumatic experiences can overwhelm this natural healing process, causing distressing memories to become “stuck” in our neural networks. 

Through eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, these memories are accessed and processed, allowing the brain to resume its normal healing process. This is achieved through a technique known as bilateral stimulation, typically involving eye movements, which helps to desensitize the individual to the distressing memory and reprocess it in a healthier way.

What Are The 8 Stages of EMDR?

EMDR therapy is structured around eight distinct stages, each playing an important role in the overall treatment process. 

  • Stage 1: History Taking and Treatment Planning. The therapist gathers comprehensive information about the client’s history and identifies potential targets for EMDR processing.
  • Stage 2: Preparation. The therapist explains the EMDR process and equips the client with self-control techniques to manage emotional distress.
  • Stage 3: Assessment. The therapist helps the client select a specific memory to target, identifying the associated negative belief, emotions, and body sensations.
  • Stage 4: Desensitization. The therapist uses bilateral stimulation to help the client reprocess the distressing memory, reducing its emotional impact.
  • Stage 5: Installation. The therapist helps the client to strengthen a positive belief to replace the previously held negative belief.
  • Stage 6: Body Scan. The client is asked to think about the targeted memory and notice any residual bodily sensations.
  • Stage 7: Closure. The therapist ensures the client leaves each session feeling better than or as good as at the beginning.
  • Stage 8: Reevaluation. At the start of subsequent sessions, the therapist checks to ensure that the positive effects of the previous session have been maintained and decides on the next target for EMDR processing.

The number of EMDR sessions needed to experience some degree of relief or resolution depends on the nature of the traumatic experience. While it is not uncommon for individuals to feel some degree of positive change after even one session, it may take weeks or months of treatment for it to be effective. However, studies have consistently shown that EMDR is capable of achieving significant positive results for patients suffering from PTSD and other trauma disorders (and often in less time than other traditional psychiatric treatment options).

How EMDR Therapy can be a Beneficial Tool in the Treatment of Sex Addiction  

EMDR therapy offers a comprehensive approach to treating sex addiction, targeting traumatic memories and negative beliefs that fuel addictive behaviors. The benefits of EMDR therapy for sex addiction treatment may include: 

  • Trauma Resolution: EMDR treatment helps those struggling with sex addiction by address underlying trauma, reducing the emotional impact of distressing memories associated with addictive behaviors.
  • Behavioral Change: By breaking the cycle of compulsive behaviors through reprocessing memories, EMDR therapy facilitates behavioral change and promotes healthier coping mechanisms.
  • Improved Well-Being: EMDR can lead to improved self-esteem, healthier relationship dynamics and enhanced overall well-being, contributing to long-lasting recovery.
  • Relapse Prevention: The therapeutic benefits of EMDR treatment decrease the likelihood of compulsive sexual behaviors by replacing negative beliefs with positive ones and promoting sustainable recovery strategies.

Recovery Is Possible

EMDR can be an incredibly effective and life-altering treatment option for those struggling with sex addiction. However, the complexity of EMDR and training requires means that it is not always widely available. 

KeyStone Center ECU’s staff, in Chester, Pennsylvania, include licensed therapists trained in EMDR who focus on treating sex addiction. We are here to help you or your loved one in an empathic and nonjudgmental manner and will answer any questions you may have about sex addiction or treatment. Learn more by getting in contact with us at 833-635-6840 or using this form.