The use of EMDR in medical and somatic problems


Clients facing medical problems or experiencing somatic conditions may present for psychotherapy with a variety of concerns which include: distress or fears about the illness or condition itself (e.g., cancer, anxiety about various aspects of the treatment they need to undergo, surgery, etc., and some trepidation and genitive experiences from their interaction with the medical system or medical personnel, causing secondary trauma, Clients may also be concerned about the strength or weakness of their own bodies to heal immune system, mind/body potential). Many clients suffer from chronic conditions, which occur in either acute or chronic episodes and undermine their lives, leaving them feeling debilitated and less functional than desired (i.e., asthsma, migraine, bowel problems, ulcerative colitis, Cohn’s disease, PMS, insomnia). Some aspects of illness may be the result of somatization due to childhood trauma, secondary gain (a defense against strong feelings), unconscious need to mask strong negative affect; dissociative disorders of co aversion reactions; as well as acute or chronic stress. Some chronic symptoms may be due to long-term interpersonal problems. Clients may be suffering from maladaptive patterns established during infancy or childhood creating pervasive dysfunction in one’s sense of self, one’s relationships, or in one’s life function. Psychosomatic conditions may result.

History taking includes several levels of investigation, including current and past psychosocial and symptom history, looking for premorbid or comorbid conditions, and helping clients uncover related trauma as well as unrecognized strengths. Since a number of somatic and medical problems often have their origins in more obscure beginnings, this method helps reveal a deeper and more comprehensive history taking and decision-making process to help the clinician choose the level of complexity to use in the face of a client’s physical or emotional distress. This process may enable the clinician to help the client more quickly gain access to underlying factors which may block healing. Along with a clearer picture of the condition, integrating a variety of healing mechanisms with EMDR provides an individualized approach to activate the client’s own potential to heal.






Phyllis Klaus

Original Work Citation

Klaus, P. (2007, June). The use of EMDR in medical and somatic problems. Presentation at 8th EMDR Europe Association Conference, Paris, France



“The use of EMDR in medical and somatic problems,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed October 21, 2020,

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