Healing from toxic relationships: Integrating EMDR with family systems approaches


Clients with complex trauma histories are very often in a great deal of pain about their current day relationships with their families of origin. Some continue to repeatedly seek out emotional support from the very family members least equipped to meet their needs while others have simply cut off key family members they have determined as too toxic, sometimes for years or even decades at a time. EMDR treatment of these clients most often involves working on target memories from childhood in which parental figures have caused harm and/or failed to protect. Reopening these painful memories over the time required to complete EMDR processing can be a challenge when the same family member involved in the memories are also current sources of distress. This workshop will help EMDR clinicians identify stuck patterns that their traumatized clients have with members of their family of origin in the here and now. Strategies will be taught for managing clients’ exposure to childhood abuse perpetrators and other family members as they go through EMDR trauma processing. This will include ways to help clients “cool down” overheated relationships or bridge cut-off relationships. A model for interspersing new skills and approaches for managing difficult family members with the use of future template will be described and demonstrated.






Nancy Knudsen

Original Work Citation

Knudsen, N. (2017, April). Healing from toxic relationships: Integrating EMDR with family systems approaches. Presentation at the 13th Western Mass EMDRIA Regional Network Spring Conference, Amherst MA



“Healing from toxic relationships: Integrating EMDR with family systems approaches,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed August 1, 2021, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/24190.

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