Working with couples:  The use of EMDR in relationship counseling


It is well recognised that child abuse can result in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in a developing child. One of the outcomes of trauma is the development of irrational, self-denigrating cognitions or beliefs which helps that child survive and protects (that child) from further damage. However, these cognitions can become the overriding beliefs driving behaviour well into adulthood, this providing the basis for much adult behaviour, including behaviour in relationships. Some individuals find relationships traumatic and have difficulty coping with them. If their experience of childhood relationships was traumatic, then entering into any relationship can trigger emotions associated with the earlier trauma. In working with couples over a long period of time it has been found that it is the negative self-referencing cognitions held by one or both (usually both) partners that are responsible for much of the disagreement and dysfunction occurring with the relationship. At first it is the positive interaction between the two belief systems that unites the couple, but it is this same interaction that later becomes negative and eventually causes conflict typically one to two years following marriage. Once the negative cognitions have been identified, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) has been shown to be successful in being able to resolve the original traumas and to transform negative cognitions into more positive self-referencing cognitions as well as assist in the assimilation of more positive beliefs within each individual, thus producing changed behaviours and a resolution of some major relationship issues. EMDR can be used to empower individuals in a relationship to create the major shifts necessary to enable them to increase the possibility of a more functional relationship.






Rosamond E. Nutting

Original Work Citation

Nutting, R. E. (1996, June). Working with couples: The use of EMDR in relationship counseling. Presentation at the 1st EMDR International Association Conference, Denver, CO



“Working with couples:  The use of EMDR in relationship counseling,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed January 26, 2022,

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