How EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) Can Help Rape Survivors

How EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) Can Help Rape Survivors

Rape survivors often have to deal with more than the physical aspects of their attack. Long after the physical scars have healed, the emotional and mental scars still linger. Unfortunately these mental scars can lead to the development of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms and drug abuse.

To help rape survivors transition from merely surviving to thriving and living their best life, there are several forms of therapy that can help to provide the coping tools that a former sexual assault victim needs. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) was introduced as a form of therapy to help victims develop much-needed coping mechanisms.

What Is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing?

EMDR is a type of psychotherapy that was developed in an effort to help rape survivors and others living with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EMDR uses eight steps or phases to help survivors learn how to refocus their memories and visual associations related to the traumatic event so that recovery can be possible.

The following is a much-abbreviated version of the eight phases of EMDR therapy:

  • Phase 1: This first therapy session allows you to take time to get to know your counselor. It will involve discussions of your history and also a discussion of goals for the process. Areas of concern will be identified so that the therapist will know what needs to be focused on.
  • Phase 2: The therapist will help you identify a “safe place” that can be used as a mental escape should the sessions become difficult.
  • Phase 3: An image that the patient relates to the negative experience will be identified. The patient will be asked to relay a “positive cognition” to the image.
  • Phase 4: The therapist will ask the patient to focus on the image and relay the negative emotions associated with the image. This will be completed while doing a series of eye movements and following the instructions set by the therapist. Patients remain completely in control during the process, and many describe this phase as a safe way to discuss the event without being anxious or afraid.
  • Phase 5: The patient is questioned about the positive cognition he or she has developed. After the fourth phase the patient’s view on the associated memories may have changed.
  • Phase 6: After exploring where he or she feels pain, discomfort or stress the patient is asked to focus those areas so that new sets of eye movements and therapies can begin.
  • Phase 7: This phase is known as the debriefing phase, as it is the point during the therapy sessions where the therapist provides support and offers information about the session to the patient.
  • Phase 8: This final phase is used as an opportunity to review the previous sessions to understand and work through the experiences and sensations that the patient has gone through.

The EMDR therapies are repeated as many times as the PTSD or rape survivor needs in order to find success with the process. To gain a full understand of what EMDR is you should discuss the process with the team of professionals who will work with you when you seek out mental health treatment for the aftereffects of rape or other trauma.