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Navigating Healing: Polyvagal-Informed EMDR and IFS Therapy for Sexual Trauma


Sexual trauma can have profound and lasting impacts on an individual's well-being, and finding effective therapeutic approaches is crucial for healing. In this blog post, we will explore the empowering combination of Polyvagal-Informed EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and IFS (Internal Family Systems) therapy in addressing and overcoming the complex challenges of sexual trauma.

Understanding Polyvagal Theory:

Polyvagal Theory, developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, sheds light on the body's physiological responses to trauma. By incorporating this theory into EMDR, therapists can better understand and respond to the diverse ways clients may experience and process traumatic memories.

Polyvagal-Informed EMDR:

Polyvagal-Informed EMDR involves integrating Polyvagal Theory principles into the standard EMDR protocol. By focusing on the autonomic nervous system's responses, therapists can tailor interventions to meet the client's physiological needs, ensuring safety and gradual exposure during trauma reprocessing. This approach enhances the effectiveness of EMDR in promoting regulation and reducing hyperarousal associated with sexual trauma.

Unlocking Internal Worlds with IFS:

IFS therapy, developed by Dr. Richard Schwartz, recognizes the mind as a complex system of various parts. In the context of sexual trauma, IFS provides a framework for understanding the protective mechanisms that individuals develop in response to such experiences. By compassionately exploring and integrating these parts, clients can reclaim a sense of safety and self-empowerment.

Integrating Polyvagal-Informed EMDR and IFS:

The synergy of Polyvagal-Informed EMDR and IFS therapy creates a holistic and integrative approach to healing sexual trauma. Therapists can use Polyvagal principles to assess and regulate the client's nervous system throughout the EMDR process, ensuring a safe and contained therapeutic space. Simultaneously, IFS offers a means to explore the internal parts associated with sexual trauma, fostering understanding, compassion, and integration.

Key Steps in Polyvagal-Informed EMDR and IFS Therapy:

  1. Establishing Safety: Begin by creating a safe and regulated space, emphasizing the importance of choice and autonomy in the therapeutic process.

  2. Polyvagal-Informed EMDR: Utilize EMDR interventions while consistently monitoring the client's autonomic responses. Adjust the pace and intensity to ensure the client feels in control and supported.

  3. IFS Exploration: Introduce Internal Family Systems to explore and engage with the protective parts associated with sexual trauma. Foster self-compassion and understanding throughout this process.

  4. Integration: Work collaboratively to integrate the insights gained from both approaches, fostering a sense of coherence and resilience. Encourage clients to build a positive relationship with their internal parts, promoting a more cohesive and empowered self.


Polyvagal-Informed EMDR and IFS therapy offer a nuanced and comprehensive approach to healing sexual trauma. By combining these therapeutic modalities, therapists can address the intricate interplay between the nervous system and internal protective mechanisms, ultimately guiding clients toward empowerment, resilience, and transformative healing.

With love,

Stacy Ruse, LPC

Stacy Ruse, LPC, is an esteemed Evergreen EMDR consultant, IFS-Institute consultant, and founder of Aglow Counseling. Stacy teaches a therapeutic style that is characterized by the art of EMDR & IFS therapies with a transpersonal twist, transcending the conventional boundaries of traditional therapy. Her holistic approach acknowledges the interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit allowing individuals to tap into their innate resilience and ignite their personal transformation journey. As a trauma expert, national and international trainer, and clinical consultant, Stacy's approach is deeply rooted in trauma-informed methodologies.

IFS-Informed EMDR Consult Group:

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