A decade of EMDR humanitarian trainings in Asia


In 1999, EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Programs (HAP) began its work in Asia in Bangladesh. Since then HAP teams have trained clinicians in India, Indonesia, China, Thailand, Sri Lanka. This presentation will summarize what has been learned from ten years of experience in Asia. The EMDR HAP training in Sri Lanka following the 2004 tsunami will be presented in detail. Issues addressed will include needs assessment, organization, collaboration among organizations, ethics, cultural competence ,and program evaluation. Videotapes will show training and sessions of trainees with tsunami survivors. The presentation will show how to train participants to think, write, and speak about EMDR as well as how to competently and ethically utilize EMDR with clients. An EMDR training program was conducted as a joint project of three organizations: EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Programs (HAP), International Relief Teams (IRT), and the Sri Lankan National Counselors Association (SRILNAC). Between March and December 2005, 30 Sri Lankan counselors were trained in EMDR. These counselors demonstrated competence in EMDR on several measures, treated more than 1,000 children and more than 350 adult tsunami victims with EMDR in 2005, provided narrative reports and outcome measures for most of their clients, and formed the Sri Lanka EMDR Association (SEA). The crucial steps in establishing and implementing this training program are explained, with a summary of the subjective impressions and learning experiences most valued by the training team, including an excerpt from a trainer’s journal. This information may be useful to future cross-cultural humanitarian efforts following large-scale disasters. This article summarizes the crucial steps in establishing and carrying out this training program as well. Previous HAP programs in Bangladesh and Turkey (Konuk et al., 2006) had led to the development of a model of therapist training and service delivery following large-scale natural disasters. Great need for mental health treatment in developing countries following a disaster and the even greater challenge of delivering effective, culturally competent mental health treatment in these situations. Silove and Bryant (2006) praised the rapid needs assessment after the tsunami as an important advancement in psychiatric epidemiology that demonstrated the value of such assessment in guiding mental health interventions after disasters.They pointed out that the controversy over whether to offer psychological treatment after disasters confuses funding agencies and those planning mental health programs after disasters. Their concerns were echoed in Raphael and Stevens’s (2006) delineation of the emerging consensus about good mental health practice after disasters in an article that was not a part of the Bangkok symposium. IRT directors, EMDR-HAP staff, and SRILNAC leaders discussed crucial political, ethical, economic, and logistical decisions in conference calls and e-mails. They outlined a program that would be responsive to the culture and needs of Sri Lanka, would provide world-class EMDR training and consultation, and would follow International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) guidelines for mental health programs in post disaster situations (Weine et al., 2002). Following the funding mandate of IRT, the HAP team took responsibility for ensuring that services would in fact be delivered to tsunami survivors and that those services would be clinically effective. Therefore, requirements for continuing participation were quite specific, and trainees were more thoroughly evaluated than in previous HAP projects. These 30 counselors treated more than 1,350 tsunami survivors with EMDR between March and December 2005 and submitted outcome reports on these sessions that show marked improvement in PTSD symptoms. We know from e-mail contact that a number of participants continue to use EMDR effectively. As mentioned Important elements of the HAP training program in Sri Lanka included (a) adequate funding, (b) selection of trainees, (c) negotiation of objectives among HAP,IRT, and SRILNAC, (d) the pre-EMDR training in traumatology, (e) the consultation between trainings,(f ) the requirements for ongoing participation in the training, (g) a variety of measures of competence in EMDR, (h) the continuing, ongoing consultation with trainees, and (i) dedication. A project like this is expensive. IRT received.






Nancy Errebo

Original Work Citation

Errebo, N. (2010, July). A decade of EMDR humanitarian trainings in Asia. Presentation at the 1st EMDR Asia Conference, Bali, Indonesia



“A decade of EMDR humanitarian trainings in Asia,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed October 24, 2020, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/19787.

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