Using EMDR to treat attachment trauma in adults and children


Trauma experienced within the earliest attachment relationships leave children and adults at great risk for the development of psychiatric disorders. Maltreatment by attachment figures and traumatic losses are both closely associated with attachment disorganization, the attachment category identified in 70% of patients in psychiatric hospitals. Research shows insecure and disorganized attachments to be transmitted transgenerationally at a rate of between 70 and 80%.Adults and children with disturbed attachments frequently experience severe emotional dysregulation along with intense feelings of despair, anxiety, shame, and mistrust of others. Affected children and adults frequently lack helpful or adaptive information or insights and exhibit behaviors that elicit negative responses from those around them. Due to heavy defenses and poor self-regulation and self-awareness, patients suffering from attachment trauma are traditionally difficult to treat. However, with proper adaptations, the EMDR approach becomes a powerful method for healing attachment injuries in adults, children, and parent-child dyads. Participants will learn creative methods of adapting EMDR for the special challenges that accompany attachment injury. Participants will learn to utilize attachment resource development techniques designed to strengthen the capacity for closeness, trust, and self-compassion. They will discover how to coach an attachment figure to provide emotional regulation and help with cognitive interweaves. Participants will be able to write a therapeutic story to help process pre-verbal trauma and develop adaptive information for successful reprocessing. Creative interweaves, contained reprocessing, and methods for weaving together of past, present, and future will help participants experience successful EMDR with their most challenging cases. Case studies, video, and EMDR/attachment research will be presented.






Debra Wesselmann

Original Work Citation

Wesselmann, D. (2013, April). Using EMDR to treat attachment trauma in adults and children. Preconference presentation at the Congress EMDR Vereniging EMDR Nederland, Nijmegen, the Netherlands



“Using EMDR to treat attachment trauma in adults and children,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed January 16, 2021,

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