EMDR and drawing: A tool to integrate post-traumatic dissociation and overwhelming emotions


The difficulty of the management of overwhelming emotions aid dissociative reactions are challenging for any EMDR therapist dealing with complex traumas. As a complement to the strategies already used in EMDR, drawing gives form to The inner representations of the trauma, objectivizing it Thus the person no longer relates only to something inside him/her, but rather to something he/she can see and can concretely represent and modify In the act of drawing, the patient makes an initial reorganisation of the form of the trauma, and begins to differentiate the adaptive ego, which has the tools and the ability to restructure the experiences, and the traumatic emotional part that suffers those experiences in a condition of Impotence and passivity The person may rapidly access preverbal and motor-sensory language, activating inborn creative skills. The use of this tool enables us t0 access the traumatic material gently, limiting dissociative reactions, bypassing avoidance and flight behaviour and setting a distance from pan by objectivizing . A protective space is created between the self and the part that holds the suffering. p i n g a voice to the inner child. The patient is offered the possibility of drawing what is occurring in the self's here and now, and given a choice of different graphic materials. At the end of the drawing and assessment phase the person is asked to note what has emerged, and a brief space of time may be allowed for description without interpretation. The represented Image is treated as the inner image in the classic protocol. To start, the patent is asked to focus on the drawing, on the negative cognition and on the bodily location of the emotional disorder, while bilateral stimulation is applied. At the end of each set, the patient is asked what he/she has noticed and the therapist verifies where the person now is in the re-elaboration. If there is a change the person may either work on the drawing, modifying it, or, if the change of image is radical, may produce another drawing. After several sets, an adaptive drawing emerge5 that may be installed as a resource. The report presents the use of the tool in various psychopathological conditions, with the support of video and graphic materials, particularly focusing on how to manage dissociation. Learning objectives: 1.To learn the use of drawing as a supplementary tool, through graphic and video material of clinical cases. 2. To recognise the indications in which it provides added value to the classical protocol. 3. to learn its use in various psychopathological conditions, with particular emphasis on dissociative states. The use of drawing as a supplementary tool within the EMDR protocol gives form to the inner representation of the trauma, objectivising it, and creates a bridge of communication between the self and the blocked parts, after which it will be possible to return to desensitizing and re-elaboration with the standard protocol.






Luca Ostacoli
Gabriella Bertino

Original Work Citation

Ostacoli, L. & Bertino, G. (2010, June). EMDR and drawing: A tool to integrate post-traumatic dissociation and overwhelming emotions. Presentation at the 11th EMDR Europe Association Conference, Hamburg, Germany



“EMDR and drawing: A tool to integrate post-traumatic dissociation and overwhelming emotions,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed June 18, 2021, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/19852.

Output Formats