Masterclass 'Troubleshooting in EMDR'


This workshop is like the last page in the manual of your new washing machine: what can go wrong, how do I know, and what can I do? It is an integrative workshop on the six levels where you could get into trouble with EMDR clients, identifying problems and suggesting solutions.

1. FUNCTION OF THE PROBLEM Sometimes the client has good and important reasons not to solve the problem, like secondary gain, narcissistic investment in being a difficult client, financial reasons, etc. An instrument will be discussed to help identify these issues, and adapt one's treatment style to deal with them.

2. THERAPEUTIC RELATIONSHIP Sometimes the therapeutic relationship (or lack of it) prevents spontaneous EMDR processing; clients with (traits of) personality disorders bring their complications/ maladaptive schemas / negative core beliefs into the therapeutic relationship, and -since we are neither saints or machines- there is also the contribution of the therapist: fatigue, irritation, insecurity. Some pitfalls and unproductive interaction patterns specific for trauma clients will be discussed, including strategies to prevent or repair damage to the therapeutic relationship.

3. CASE CONCEPTUALIZATION / TARGET SELECTION Sometimes we are working on the wrong targets, so the right healing will not happen. Or the client has so many traumas you don't know where to start. Different strategies for target selection will be offered, including criteria to choose the most efficient strategy for different types of clients

4. TIMING AND PREPARATION Sometimes the client gets into trouble during the EMDR process, because of inadequate preparation. Necessary processing skills and resources are lacking. Criteria for sufficient bearing strength will be presented, including interventions and self-help strategies to enlarge the client's window of tolerance.

5. TECHNIQUES AND PROCEDURE Sometimes therapists make mistakes against EMDR technique, but also some clients do not 'do their job' in the EMDR procedure. Strategies are presented to deal with contra productive client behaviors like extreme censoring, excessive need for control, EMDR failure anxiety, pleasing, trauma-zapping, or wallowing in self-pity and victimhood.

6. INTERWEAVES IN CASE OF BLOCKING AND LOOPING Sometimes the brain needs a hint. The more damaged the clients, the more we have to intervene actively during processing. Sometimes we almost have to coach a client step- by-step along the way. The 'non-cognitive interweave' will be introduced as an extra-strong intervention, to be used when words and the usual interweaves are not enough.






Joany Spierings

Original Work Citation

Spierings, J. (2016, June). Masterclass 'Troubleshooting in EMDR."  Preconference presentation at the at the 17th EMDR Europe Association Conference, The Hague



“Masterclass 'Troubleshooting in EMDR',” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed June 20, 2021,

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