Listen to the body: Somatic awareness in EMDR therapy with complex trauma survivors


Individuals exposed to trauma early in life or multiple traumas across Time/Session often suffer a variety of psychological (e.g. PTSD, anxiety, depression) and physical symptoms (e.g. chronic pain, neuromuscular rigidity). More often, these people may not be able to symbolize their experience with words due to the deactivation of the Broca’s area in the brain at the Time/Session when the traumas happen to them. When working with these clients, therapists often find them not able to do safe place or other imaginative resources in phase 2 of EMDR. Instead, they may easily flip into trauma state during resource installation. Body awareness and body mindfulness present as an effective and easier stabilization technique to enable the clients to develop a felt sense of calm and groundedness in their bodies. In phase 4 of reprocessing, when clients bring up the traumatic materials, they may also become disembodied with shutting down of the entire brain. Somatic intervention by focusing on the physical sensations will prevent dissociation by accessing minimal level of activation necessary for processing. In other cases, clients with preverbal trauma may not be able to articulate their experiences with words. By focusing on the physical sensations, the traumatic story will gradually reveal. This workshop uses video segments of EMDR sessions in survivors of complex trauma to illustrate how somatic awareness in different phases of EMDR can help to stabilize and access the implicit memories stored in the body, in order to achieve peace of the mind and the body.






Maggie Poon

Original Work Citation

Poon, M. (2017, April).  Listen to the body: Somatic awareness in EMDR therapy with complex trauma survivors. In EMDR & illness/medical issues/somatisation /chronic pain/cancer (Derek Farrell, Chair). Presentation at the 3rd EMDR Asia International Conference, Shanghai, China



“Listen to the body: Somatic awareness in EMDR therapy with complex trauma survivors,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed November 29, 2021,

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