EMDR in a critical incident in Germany (prison riot)


The prison system serves, among many others, one important goal: to separate those members of society, who are dangerous to others, from the more peaceful and law-abiding majority. As a consequence one could assume that the inmates of a prison from a, subgroup of human beings, distinct by their aggressive potential. Though this is not true for all of the prisoners, it may be true for many of them. It is a well known fact, at least in Germany, that procedures for controlling the safety in a prison, can't eliminate criminal behaviour or dealing with drugs in a prison. One could assume, that even if an adequate standard of safety is upheld, a prison would be a dangerous place to work in and that prison staff would be at a considerable risk of being traumatised at work. In the prison system in Lower Saxony, Germany, between 5 and 10 recently traumatised staff are invited to participate in a group consultation each year. The number of unrecorded cases is certainly much higher. In contrast there is not much literature about traumatisation of prison staff. On the other hand prison staff are regarded as a population often reluctant to engage in psychotherapy and leaving psychotherapy prematurely, without a significant treatment effect. On 13th of August 1999 a prisoner attacked prison staff at Uelzen prison in Lower Saxony, Germany. The perpetrator killed two members of staff, wounded two others severely and committed suicide immediately afterwards. More members of staff suffered from the psychological effects of the violence. The Critical Incident Team within the Ministry of Justice provided intensive care and counselling. 15 members of staff were identified as a high risk group to develop PTSD. 10 members of staff began psychotherapy. 7 qualified for a diagnosis of PTSD, 3 for related diagnoses, according to ICD-10 criteria None of them left therapy prematurely. One member of staff suffered from the effects of a civil war situation experienced 15 years before, with a late onset PTSD triggered by vicarious traumatisation. Only one remains out of work, but does not qualify for a diagnosis of PTSD at present. Three are still in therapy. 7 patents ended therapy with a complete recovery. EMDR was applied to great extent in 9 of the 10 cases. EMDR was tolerated well and proved to be fast and efficient. Treatment effects seem to last over time. Setting the focus on the trauma and using EMDR as a specific psychotherapeutic method seems to provide an accepted strategy with significant gains for this population.






Michael Hase

Original Work Citation

Hase, M. (2001, May). EMDR in a critical incident in Germany (prison riot). Presentation at the 2nd EMDR Europe Association Conference, London, England



“EMDR in a critical incident in Germany (prison riot),” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed November 29, 2021, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/19169.

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