A new technique I am happy to begin to introduce and to integrate into some clients’ sex therapy treatment plan is EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) Therapy.  My landing on EMDR has been a curious one- as a client myself I have had some experience with EMDR, but never with EMDR and sex therapy and I’ve also had many clients have successful experiences with EMDR therapy to work with trauma and intrusive thoughts and memories.

But recently, I had a wonderful opportunity to start my own EMDR Training through the first weekend of EMDR Basic Training on June 29-July 1, 2018 in Austin, TX.  My entire EMDR training will be two, 20-hour training weekends plus 10 additional hours of small group and one-on-one consultation and training sessions for a total of 50-hours of training in the EMDR Basic Training.  My second weekend will be in October, 2018 in Austin, TX so by January, 2019, I will have completed the EMDR Basic Training.  Until then, I will be following the practice guidelines in between training and will only begin integrating some EMDR with clients who I have an established relationship who meet the qualifications to begin the work with me.

My intention is ultimately to integrate EMDR with sex therapy clients and to specifically to start working with victims of sexual assault in Austin, TX.  A unique training and volunteer opportunity presented itself recently that I applied for and out of hundreds of applications, I was one of 57 therapists, social workers, and counselors selected to participate in a program that aims to assist survivors of sexual assault in Austin TX.  Through a partnership with Austin Police Department, Victim Services Division and the Austin/Travis County Sexual Assault Response and Resource Team (SARRT), an innovative program was funded that will provide complete EMDR training to therapists in the private and not-for-profit sectors in Travis County in order to provide free therapy for survivors of sexual assault in the City of Austin and Travis County.

lab photoIf you aren’t from Austin, TX or Texas and/or don’t know what has been happening with rape kits from sexual assault survivors, in the short of it, we had a huge and unacceptable backlog of rape kits that had not been processed, with over 2,200-3,000 kits waiting to be tested dated as far back to the 1990’s just in Austin alone, with nearly 10,000-20,000 kits backlogged in other counties and the state as a whole.  I won’t get into WHY this was happening (it’s complicated and involves a lot of factors, not just negligence and long wait times and lab contracts, but victim cooperation and a variety of other issues), but it is totally unacceptable (you can find out more information online from various news sources about this).  As of April 10, 2018, all kits from Austin’s backlogs are in process or have been sent out, but now what?  It was becoming painfully clear that these survivors needed services as their kits came back and their cases began the long and arduous journey of being considered and processed.  APD Victim Services and SARRT realized that these survivors need services with trained trauma professionals, and got funding to train local professionals to provide evidence-based trauma treatment.  Each trained professional is required to provide at least 50 pro-bono sessions to survivors of sexual assault in the three years after training.  Through this program, over 3,000 pro-bono sessions will be provided to the survivors of sexual assault in the Austin and Travis County area.

I am very proud to be selected for this program, help victims of sexual assault in my community, and to develop my skills to begin integrating EMDR and sex therapy.  Specifically, my goal in helping my clients and survivors of sexual assault is to not only address the trauma but specifically work with sexual functioning concerns and post-assault/trauma sexuality.  Because I am a sex therapist, I am a more specialized therapist than many of the therapists, social workers, and counselors in the training in that my training is sex, sexuality, relationships, and gender specific.  I have a more specified knowledge of treatment of sexual issues related to sexual trauma and assault as well as relational and gender issues.  I am greatly looking forward to not only providing quality sex therapy services to existing clients but also welcome survivors of sexual assault into my practice and integrate EMDR and sex therapy.

So I wanted to take a little time to inform my clients, new and existing, a little bit about what EMDR is, what it treats, why we think it works, and what its about.  This is by no means an extensive explanation, and there is so much research out there on EMDR that you can find a ton of other information about it in books, articles, webinars, etc.

To get started, here is a video from Bessel van der Kolk, a leading theorist, therapist and author of a pivotal work on trauma and the body entitled The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain, and Body in the Transformation of Trauma


Here is a popular short video that explains a little bit about what to expect with EMDR and how it is believed to work:


What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy is an evidence-based therapy model that has been empirically proven and validated with more research conducted and published on the treatment of trauma than any other therapy model.  This model works and has been PROVEN to work.  That is pretty cool!  EMDR is a distinct, comprehensive treatment approach and includes 8 phases of treatment:

  1.  History Taking and Treatment Planning
  2. Preparation
  3. Assessment (Setting Up Target)
  4. Desensitization (Reprocessing of Memory)
  5. Installation (of Positive Cognition)
  6. Body Scan
  7. Closure
  8. Re-Evaluation

It is important to note that EMDR Therapy has these 8 phases of treatment, most which do not involve any eye movement/reprocessing.  Often times, clients will be eager to get to the eye movement interventions but sometimes Steps 1-3 take quite a bit of time to get to.  It’s important to understand that EMDR is a treatment and therapeutic program, not just a one and done technique.

What does EMDR treat?

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD)
  • Disorders of Extreme Stress (DESNOS)
  • Depression
  • Dissociative Disorders
  • Phobias
  • Complicated Grief
  • Addictions
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Performance anxiety or enhancement
  • Treatment of Children
  • Couples Therapy
  • Chronic Illness and Somatic Disorders
  • Eating Disorders

What SEXUAL ISSUES does EMDR help with/treat?

  • PTSD and C-PTSD from sexual trauma/abuse/assault
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Sexual anxiety
  • Dissociation during sex
  • Fear of Sex
  • Aversion to sex, sexual aversion
  • Grief and loss related to and unrelated to but affecting sexual functioning
  • Sexual addiction, sexual compulsivity, problematic sexual behavior
  • Sexual performance anxiety
  • Couples and relationship sexual therapy
  • Chronic sexual pain and chronic sexual illness
  • Chronic illness that has sexual effects
  • Somatic processing issues around sexual functioning
  • And many others!

How does EMDR work?

This question can be answered in many different ways, from simple answers to complex answers.  Here is a sample explanation of EMDR that might give you some insight to how it works:

“Often when something traumatic happens, it seems to get locked in the nervous system with the original picture, sounds, thoughts, feelings, and so on.  Since the experience is locked there, it continues to be triggered whenever a reminder comes up.  It can the basis for a lot of discomfort and sometimes a lot of negative emotions, such as fear and helplessness that we can’t seem to control.  These are really the emotions connected with the old experience that are being triggered.  The eye movements we use in EMDR seem to unlock the nervous system and allow your brain to process the experience.  That may be what is happening in REM, or dream, sleep: The eye movements may be involved in processing the unconscious material.  The important thing to remember is that it is your own brain that will be the healing and that you are the one in control”

– Shapiro, F. (2001). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: Basic principles, protocols, and procedures.  New York: The Guilford Press. pg. 123-124.

That may seem like a vague answer, but there are a lot of theories on how and why EMDR works and I don’t want to spend a ton of time explaining why (if you want to know, I suggest doing a little more research) but it gives you an idea of a few of the theories on WHY and HOW EMDR works.

So what is EMDR all about?

EMDR Therapy is a treatment program and therapeutic model that aims to help you change your relationship, neurologically, emotionally, cognitively, and physiologically with memories, trauma, disturbing cognitions, or disturbing emotions.  In using EMDR and sex therapy, I hope to use it as a therapy in and of itself with my clients, existing and new, as well as an adjunct model with clients that may have other complicated therapeutic needs but a component of the work would be appropriately addressed by EMDR.  Like I mentioned above, many clients believe that we will get right into eye movements if we are doing EMDR, but in fact, EMDR is a treatment protocol that is a lot more than just eye movements and takes time and multiple sessions to assess, prepare, and conduct.

What EMDR can do though, is incredible- it can unlock and allow you to reprocess cognitions, emotions, and sensations that you may have previously felt that there was nothing you can do about.  Trauma is everywhere, but you don’t have to suffer or struggle with trauma- you can heal and reprocess your experience of trauma.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

If you aren’t located in Austin, TX and want to find an EMDR professional, the EMDR International Association (EMDRIA) is a great place to start:  FIND AN EMDR THERAPIST

If you are in a dangerous situation or need help now: please call 911.

You can also call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline: 1-800.656.HOPE (4673)

You can also call the Austin, TX Crisis Helpline: 512-472-HELP(4357)

If you are in Austin, TX (and beyond) and have been a survivor of sexual assault or trauma, here are some resources for you.

Austin, TX Victim Services Resources

The SAFE Alliance

If you are interested in FREE therapy in Austin, TX and are a survivor of sexual assault, the following organizations offer free therapy to survivors of sexual assault:

YWCA Greater Austin

SAFE Place Counseling 

  • SAFE Place offers a mens survivor support group as well as individual and relationship counseling.

If you are interested in working with me, please fill out this form below and I’ll contact you within 24-48 hours to see I can be most helpful!