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 emotions, often involved the processing of intense emotions. The abreaction can be quite shocking to the therapist who may then engage the client in talking therapy, utilize resource installation, or provide an interweave to lower the level of intensity. While this can, at times, be appropriate and helpful, often it is counter indicated and a perceived resolution may be short lived and/or needlessly circumscribed. It is important to recognize the markers of treatment, and what choices are appropriate. Ironically, 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 emotion.

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 healing 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 form 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 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 the processing, d) and knowing when to verbally intervene and when to “stay out of the way.”

This workshop will focus on:

a) Assessment of client readiness

b) Therapeutic clinical presence and attunement skills

c) Detecting behavioral manifestations of processing and calibrating bilateral stimulation to the client in order to maximize processing and control intensity

d) 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. (2007, June). The art of EMDR: Dealing with abreactions. Presentation at the 8th EMDR Europe Association Conference, Paris, France



“The art of EMDR: Dealing with abreactions,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed August 1, 2021,

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