Can EMDR be used within a client-centred (non-directive) play therapy sessions?


The purpose of this exploratory study was to see whether EMDR could he incorporated into a Client-Centred model of Play Therapy, to enable children and adolescents to more rapidly process traumatic memories, thereby enhancing the therapeutic process. The Client-Centred (non-directive) Play Therapy model is now well recognised as a way of helping children and adolescents who have experienced psychological trauma to work through their experiences in a way that is both empowering and non-threatening. It is based on Rogerian principles (Rogers 1951), with the philosophy that given the right therapeutic conditions the children, like adults, have an innate drive towards health. The child leads the way, and the therapist follows. I have struggled to see how EMDR can fit comfortably within a client-centered play therapy model, although I recognise that Shapiro describes the model as client-centred. To test a hypothesis that EMDR could be integrated into a client-centred play therapy approach, three children were identified. All 3 were waiting for some regular weekly client-centred play therapy sessions, within the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, in West Yorkshire. The subject of the study were two girls, one aged 8 years old and the other aged 14 years with a mild learning disability, and a boy who was 13 years old. All three had experienced complex psychological trauma including sexual abuse. My dilemma was whether it was in fact possible to introduce EMDR within the sessions, and if so, how to do this in a way that enhanced the therapeutic process and did not intrude. The sessions were set up introducing the EMDR protocol alongside setting up the client-centred play therapy sessions. Each child was offered 10-12 weekly sessions. In this presentation I will summarise my findings and hope to show how possible ways the two approaches can be integrated.






Anita Sabey

Original Work Citation

Sabey, A. (2001, May). Can EMDR be used within a client-centred (non-directive) play therapy sessions? Poster presented at 2nd EMDR Europe Association Conference, London, UK



“Can EMDR be used within a client-centred (non-directive) play therapy sessions?,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed September 25, 2020,

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