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Healing sexual trauma with EMDR - a case study (warning, this may contain triggering material)





This is a case study about Sally who was successfully treated with EMDR. (Note: There is no identifiable information in this blog as I see many women for sexual trauma, and the following scenario is not uncommon).


Sally was a lady who came to see me for therapy to treat a sexual trauma that happened 5 years ago. She was in her mid 20's when the incident happened where she was sexually assaulted by a drunken man one night. She was greatly affected by this event and was diagnosed with PTSD and experienced anxiety, depression, ongoing nightmares, hypervigilance, flashbacks and had a lot of fear going out when it was dark, or being alone in the company of men. She would jump whenever someone approached her from behind, and became irritable whenever her partner would come up to giver her a surprise hug.

These symptoms caused great distress to Sally for many years, and impacted her relationship, social life, employment and overall wellbeing.


Sally came to me for some counselling sessions as she felt her symptoms were getting in the way of a healthy relationship and enjoying daily life.


She saw me 4 times overall. The first session I conducted my normal assessment with her; exploring what brought her to come for treatment. I ascertained her history and some basic details about the incident, and by the third session we conducted EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reintegration) on the actual incident. After implementing the actual eye movement, Sally reported that when she thought about the incident, she no longer felt triggered into her trauma response (anxiety, hypervigilance, overwhelm etc) and she left the session feeling a little bit tired from the processing that took place, but grateful to not feel triggered when thinking about it.


Sally came back for a fourth and final session about a month later. She reported of great success after that one session of conducting the eye movement. And, to her own surprise, she was able to go out at night alone without having to look over her shoulder. She also no longer jumped when her boyfriend hugged her by surprise; no longer had nightmares; and dropped her overall jumpiness. Her PTSD symptoms had gone.


We were both elated that she could now return to enjoying a normal life.



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