The heart with a door: EMDR with clients with mental disability


For the past three decades clinical experience as well as research has supported the validity of counseling and psychotherapy in the treatment of clients with mental disability (MH/MR)(Objective #1). At first, behavioural therapies and later various forms of process-oriented therapy (Gestalt, creative arts, body-centered, play) have been effectively employed with this population. Particularly through the use of process therapies, it has become clear that traditional insight and cognitive therapy must be adopted in favor of experience, action, body-centeredness and “right-brain” functioning to be impactful with this population.

EMDR, given it primarily non-verbal mode of functioning, holds great promise as an effective and efficient therapy for trauma treatment with dually diagnosed clients, a population inherently vulnerable to traumatic impact. This presentation will emphasize the “phase model” aspects of trauma treatment and will demonstrate where EMDR is effective within this model (Objective #2). Attention will also be given to ways in which the basic EMDR protocol need to be adapted to meet the needs of these clients (Objective #3).

A report on the progress of a series of single case studies with client with mental disabilities in Pennsylvania as well as anecdotal reports will be utilized to demonstrate EMDR effectiveness with this population. Video clip of sessions involving clients with varying levels of functioning will give the audience a concrete experience of the adaptive use of EMDR (Objective #4).

The workshop will leave time for participants to apply the learning to cases of their own (Objective #5).






Andrew Seubert

Original Work Citation

Seubert, A. (2007, June). The heart with a door: EMDR with clients with mental disability. Presentation at the 8th EMDR Europe Association Conference, Paris, France



“The heart with a door: EMDR with clients with mental disability,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed June 21, 2021,

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