Eye movement therapy can reduce harmful sexual fantasies

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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), a psychological therapy known for desensitizing traumatic memories through visual imagery, may have an unexpected benefit—it can reduce the impact of harmful sexual fantasies.

This groundbreaking research conducted by Dr. Andrew Allen, a clinical psychologist at the University of the Sunshine Coast (UniSC), offers insights into both forensic criminology and therapeutic psychology.

The Role of Fantasies in Human Sexuality

Sexual fantasies are a common facet of human sexuality that can either enhance sexual well-being or contribute to psychopathology, depending on their nature.

Dr. Allen’s research explores the potential for EMDR to mitigate harmful sexual fantasies and their consequences.

EMDR and Its Effects

The study, published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry and co-authored by Professor Mary Katsikitis from Flinders University, demonstrates that EMDR can reduce the intensity, physical sensations, pleasure, and sexual arousal associated with sexual fantasies.

This therapeutic approach incorporates computer-assisted eye movements while individuals engage in mental imagery exercises.

Potential Applications: Dr. Nadine McKillop, co-supervisor at UniSC’s Sexual Violence Research and Prevention Unit, highlights the significance of these findings in addressing sexual violence risks stemming from harmful fantasies.

The research offers potential applications in forensic settings to reduce the risk of sexual violence perpetrated by individuals with troubling fantasies.

Furthermore, it holds promise in clinical settings to assist individuals in coping with distressing sexual memories.

Dr. Allen’s research builds on the premise that sexual dysfunction can result from problematic memories, similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It posits that sexual fantasies may be influenced by previous sexual experiences. The study reinforces the idea that eye movement therapy can alter the characteristics of sexual fantasies and influence behavioral intentions.

Dr. Prudence Millear, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at UniSC and co-supervisor of the study, commends this novel research, emphasizing its intriguing results.

The study showcases the potential of EMDR in addressing the complex relationship between sexual fantasies and psychological well-being.

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The research findings can be found in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry.

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