Placing culture at the heart of EMDR therapy


The emergence of EMDR therapy as the premier treatment for PTSD, has been accompanied by a recognition of the healing role played by the relationship between EMDR therapist and client (Shapiro, 2001; Dworkin, 2005; Marich 2009). In her 2012 client-centered exploration of what makes a good EMDR therapist, Marich highlighted the importance of empowering clients while Silver and Rogers (2002) recognized the need for therapist self-awareness. This chapter offers a culturally attuned approach to the therapeutic alliance and therapist self-awareness by placing culture at the heart of EMDR therapy. Such a practice facilitates healing through the integration of the five intermingling cultures identified by Vontress (1988) – universal culture, ecological culture, national culture, regional culture and racioethnic culture. It further acknowledges that all aspects of counseling, including the relationship, diagnosis, treatment plan and the intervention strategy are influenced by the culture of both therapist and client (Vontress, 2012, p. 9). In addition, it mitigates the risk of epistemic violence, or the therapist’s insistence on imposing a different worldview on the client, by acknowledging the impact of the therapist’s own socialization and values.


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Rajani Venkatraman Levis

Original Work Citation

Levis, R. V. (2017). An integrative approach to EMDR therapy as an antioppression endeavor. In M. Nickerson's (Ed.), Cultural Competence and Healing Culturally-Based Trauma with EMDR Therapy: Innovative Strategies and Protocols (pp. 97-112). New York, NY: Springer Publishing



“Placing culture at the heart of EMDR therapy,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed October 22, 2020,

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