Accessing preverbal trauma for effective adult EMDR


Recent research (Moberg, 2003, The Oxytocin Factor) indicates the potential of early pre-verbal trauma to set up biochemical and neurological responses which activate certain triggers. Since the touchstone event is pre-verbal, it is difficult to identify, but crucial in the resolution of later traumas resistant to full EMDR processing (Those who remain stuck at a greater than 0 SUDs). The antedotal experience is that this model can activate the material more fully and facilitate more thorough competion of phases 4-8. "Once upon a Time" contains every element of the EMDR Protocol in the prescribed order, Incident, Image, NC, PC, VOC, Emotion, SUD, Body sensation. This experimental model is not a substitute for standard EMDR. It facilitates access tohese preverbal traumas and the resultant cognitions which may have formed around them. It allows for a return to the standard EMDR protocol after this early material has been effectively targeted and reprocessed. "Once Upon a Time" model allows for fuller connection with early material. History is collected through antedotal information from third party informants and family photographs and is used to create a metaphor; this technique can access the multiple modalities of pre-verbal experience previously intellectualized. Phase three begins with a short continuation of Phase 1 using an interview format to review and briefly discuss the various elements of the troubling material. A "sentence completion" format is used to obtain the TICES elements. Those spontaneous answers form the script for a "Once Upon a Time" (Crow, 2004, EMDRIA Montreal, Canada), a deviation from Phase 4 of the standard protocol. Pertinent examples of the application of this model will be discussed and demonstrated with video taped excerpts of actual clients. Video taped client reports of the long term effect of the shifts resulting from the "Once Upon a Time" experience will provide validation that this technique enables retur to the standard EMDR protocol and full processing of previously incompletely processed material. Participants will create their own "Once Upon a Time" script from a video example of client history as an experiential introduction to the intricacies of this model. Evidence indicates that this technique is effective on a "consultant" basis, where the "Once Upon a Time" can be conducted by a separate therapist skilled in the technique, and returned to their regular EMDR therapist to complete this treatment. Currently a study is underway utilizing a pre/post text design (N=10) and statistical analysis of the results to measure the quantitative change within the client.






Carol Crow
E. Sause

Original Work Citation

Crow, C., & Sause, E. (2007, June). Accessing preverbal trauma for effective adult EMDR. Poster presented at the 8th EMDR Europe Association Conference, Paris, France



“Accessing preverbal trauma for effective adult EMDR,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed September 16, 2021,

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