EMDR with dissociative clients: 17 secrets


Unmodified EMDR can harm dissociative clients if it prematurely breaches dissociative barriers overwhelming the client’s capacity and resources. Practitioners must screen for dissociation and use special procedures to safely use EMDR with these clients. The workshop will cover critical guidelines and techniques to pace and troubleshoot EMDR with dissociative clients within the phased treatment model, for clients ranging from DDNOS to DID. Assessment and stabilization are key to preparing clients for trauma work. The workshop offers methods to increase affect tolerance, establish a two-step containment habit, and orient personalities to person place and time. Other topics include: increasing tolerance of body sensation and affect, and enhancing compassion for self and others, directly working with introjects or other “monstrous” shame-laden parts, essential to reducing internal conflict and resistance to therapy. The workshop instructs in specific ego state strategies and imagery to provide sufficient resources, maintain an observing ego. Rooted in the hypnotic tradition, stabilization methods to pace and fractionate the work within EMDR while interspersing trauma work with sessions that consolidate gains. The workshop also describes the conference room method and means to trouble-shoot stuck processing. Finally, the workshop describes the final phases of therapy, skills building, integration and fusion.

Participants will be able to : ♦♦ explain why and when to assess every client for degree of dissociation and choose an appropriate protocol. ♦♦ list six tactics for stabilizing clients, prior to doing EMDR for dissociative clients, to increase rapport, contain affect, orient to present circumstances, reduce inner conflict, and build coping resources. ♦♦ structure EMDR sessions using imagery and ego state interventions for pacing, fractionating and trouble-shooting the work.






Sandra Paulsen

Original Work Citation

Paulsen, S. (2010, October). EMDR with dissociative clients: 17 secrets. Presentation at the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation 27th Annual International Conference, Atlanta, GA



“EMDR with dissociative clients: 17 secrets,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed November 26, 2020, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/21027.

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