Breaking the cycle: EMDR therapy solutions for problematic anger, acting out and addictive behaviors


Topic-informed EMDR offers a unique potential to more effectively treat clients presenting with problematic anger, hostility and a range of related behaviors across a spectrum of severity. Relevant client issues include temper outbursts; an array of chronic or occasional hostile interactions with others such as verbal aggression, intimate partner abuse, angry parenting, and bullying; anger avoidance; revenge obsessions, ideologically based hostility and prejudice; and the common struggles with anger for combat veterans and first responders.This presentation will teach practical strategies and special considerations for a successfully tailored use of the 8-Phase EMDR treatment approach. Key points will be illuminated with case examples including clips from video-taped clinical sessions. Useful knowledge from the field of anger management and violence prevention will be integrated to create a customized EMDR treatment approach which surpasses the capacity of mainstream non-EMDR interventions.

This presentation will identify EMDR interventions that are also applicable to other problematic behaviors. Protocols, tools and strategies taught will include a depiction of the Cycle Model cycle model for assessment, trigger identification and target selection; a metaphor-based guide to case formulation; ways to enhance client engagement and motivation; topic-related stabilization and preparation techniques; ways to transform abusive power and controlling behaviors; compassionate confrontation; emotional funneling and affect regulation; symptom-focused targeting strategies including inverted protocols; the use of restricted processing for current triggers; solution scripting, strategic skill building, and a protocol for addressing prejudice and hostile attitudes.

Violent behavior is typically a trauma reenactment and reprocessing strategies can aid clients in undoing the maladaptive template driving many to “make others feel the way I felt,” as one client said. When a client is “doing unto others what was done to them,” trauma-informed intervention offers realistic hope for true transformation and behavioral change.






Mark Nickerson

Original Work Citation

Nickerson, M. (2016, June). Breaking the cycle: EMDR therapy solutions for problematic anger, acting out and addictive behaviors. Preconference presentation at the at the 17th EMDR Europe Association Conference, The Hague



“Breaking the cycle: EMDR therapy solutions for problematic anger, acting out and addictive behaviors,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed September 27, 2021,

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