EMDR and ego state therapy: Healing complex trauma and dissociation


We all display particular patterns of thinking, feeling and acting, depending on the situation. The transition is usually seamless in well-adjusted people, but where there has been disrupted attachment or sustained early life trauma the result is often the formation of particular ego states, also known as alters, parts, or schema modes. These states perform roles usually geared towards survival, but in adulthood they can be dysfunctional. Depending upon a client’s early life experiences some ego states can be malevolent, wanting bad things for the client such as willing them to suffer in some way. These clients present us with the greatest challenges through what we know as complex trauma and dissociative disorders. It is necessary for clients to remain stable during EMDR sessions and contained between sessions, particularly with complex trauma and dissociative disorders. There is a need, therefore, to learn techniques to work in the Preparation Phase with more difficult clients so they too can benefit from the full EMDR protocol. It is also helpful to know how to deal with blocked processing in the Desensitization Phase due to the interference of an ego-state. This workshop initially provides an overview of dissociation and how it impacts on EMDR processing. There will be an explanation of Ego State Therapy (EST) and how it fits with EMDR to provide the stabilization clients need, as well as dealing with blocked processing. Clinical case material is used throughout to illustrate learning points. Through demonstration and practice participants will learn how to build resources for clients, access ego states in a controlled way and effect therapeutic change. In the latter part of the day, participants will see videos of live cases where EST is used effectively in the Preparation Phase of EMDR to: 1) identify the part-selves and 2) moderate the malevolence displayed by two difficult ego states. Learning objectives Understand how complex trauma and dissociative disorders impact EMDR processing Understand the concept of working with part-selves as a way of preparing clients for the standard EMDR protocol. Learn how to access ego states in a controlled way and effect therapeutic change and stability. Learn techniques to deal with difficult ego states.






M. Peterson

Original Work Citation

Peterson, M. 2010, April). EMDR and ego state therapy: Healing complex trauma and dissociation. Presentation at the 2nd Bi-Annual International European Society for Trauma and Dissociation Conference, Belfast, Northern Ireland



“EMDR and ego state therapy: Healing complex trauma and dissociation,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed October 19, 2020, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/21387.

Output Formats