The art of EMDR:  Dealing with abreactions


The overall objective of this workshop is to enable the EMDR therapist to deal more effectively, and comfortably, with intense client affect. Treatment of complex trauma, where dissociation prevents the integration of traumatic memories, often involves the processing of intense emotions. The abreaction can be quite shocking to the therapist who may then engage the client in verbal interventions (e.g. interweave, resource installation, talking therapy). While this can indeed be appropriate and helpful, it is often the therapist who is uncomfortable with the level of & client affect, rather than the client being unable to deal with the intense emotions. The hallmark of EMDR is "staying out of the way" if the dysfunctionally stored information is moving. An inherent value of EMDR is to facilitate natural processing and the client's natural patterns. Assuming client readiness and preparation to deal with emotional material, an interweave (which elicits other neural networks), or resource installation (which initiates a state change) or prolonged talking (which initiates an interpersonal process) - though often useful - can interfere with the client's own internal processing and take the client away from their natural and unique resolution and integration. The therapist can enable the client to process intense material utilizing a) strong attunement skills to hold the client in one's therapeutic presence, b) recognition of behavioral manifestations of processing to guide speed, rate, and tempo of bilateral stimulation to maximize processing c) using different rate, speed, and tempo to control emotional intensity of processing; d) and knowing when to verbally intervene and when to "stay out of the way". Hence, more important than the mechanics of bilateral stimulation is the way EMDR is delivered. EMDR is a "dance" between client and therapist with the therapist interacting through bi-lateral stimulation even more than through verbal communication. This workshop will focus on dealing with intense affect with EMDR (the dance) and include discussion of 1) How to assess client readiness for dealing with intense material, both before and during EMDR processing. 2) Therapist clinical presence and attunement skills. 3) Detecting behavioral manifestations of processing and calibrating bilateral stimulation to the client in order to maximize processing, and control intensity of processing. 4) Therapeutic choice points concerning verbal interventions and "staying out of the way". Demonstration and video tapes will be used to illustrate teaching points. (Participants should be aware that the videos have intense emotional content).






Roger M. Solomon

Original Work Citation

Solomon, R. M. (2006, September). The art of EMDR: Dealing with abreactions. Presentation at the 11th EMDR International Association Conference, Philadelphia, PA



“The art of EMDR:  Dealing with abreactions,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed August 2, 2021,

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