A Community of Heart Profile: Ana Gomez
Ana M. Gomez is our Colombian-born colleague who now lives in the United States. Her mother, Elizabeth Ramirez, and father, Pedro Jose Gomez, met each other in Cali, Colombia. He was in the military and later became a schoolteacher and she was a seamstress most of her life. They moved to Tocaima due to the political violence in the region. Ana was 2 years old when she and her family moved to Bogota, the capital of Colombia. She was the baby of the family, arriving 8 years after her next oldest sibling. She had four older sisters and one brother.
Oderay, Ana’s second oldest sister, was enamored with philosophy and introduced her to it. This subject spoke to Ana’s curious nature and she devoured books on the subject. By 12, she was reading Nietzsche and Hermann Hesse. One of the first books she read and fell in love with was “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” from by Richard Bach. Ana was interested in the “why” of everything and as a child and adolescent questioned the reason and purpose of everything in this incredible universe. By 4th grade, she was creating peer groups to delve into the mysteries of the universe. In High School, she would even invite her philosophy teachers to help in this endeavor. She is still searching to discover the ever-changing nature of life.
When she graduated high school at 17, she was ready to be a philosopher, but her family asked, “How will you make a living?” She thought about it and decided that the second thing that she liked was psychology and she could do more with it, so she would give it a try. She went to Catholic University in Bogota where she received a Professional Degree in Psychology with a Specialization in Clinical Psychology in 1990. This was a 4 -year program with a 5th year specializing in clinical psychology and a thesis (Effectiveness of a group program for couples experiencing domestic violence).
Ana loved to dance since she was very young and during her college years joined the university dance group. She received a partial scholarship for being part of the group that helped pay her tuition. After she graduated, she continued to dance as she described dancing as more fulfilling than the psychology she had learned that was highly influenced by behaviorism. Ana joined a Colombian ballet company and traveled to the United States and other countries in Latin America. She discovered that she liked the United States especially the challenge of learning another language and finding out about another culture.
Ana likes the idea of a “blank canvas” for her to uncover the opportunities that life has for her. Determined to know all she could about the United States, she jumped at the opportunity to live in the US when her best friend invited her to come. At the time, she applied to get a visa to come to the US with very few financial resources but -to her surprise- the visa was granted, and she arrived in the US twenty-three years ago. Ana could not speak English when she came and enrolled in a college in New Jersey to learn English as a Second Language (ESL). She assumed that she would stay for several years and return to Colombia and her family and friends. She was very homesick at that time for her country, her family and her friends and said that is was one of the hardest and most painful things she has ever done.
Other events intervened, and Ana met her ex-husband and decided to stay in the US and work on her MA. She was accepted at King University in Counseling Psychology. For their honeymoon, they went to Arizona and they fell in love with the area. Despite knowing no one, they decided to move there.
When she moved to Arizona, she applied and was accepted at Arizona State University at Tempe. She got a job working with domestic violence with Justice Services Inc. in Phoenix where she screened and assessed court-ordered clients with issues of domestic violence, anger management and sex offenses among others. After a year, she found that she was not working in a place that would help with creating change, so she applied to the City of Phoenix and worked in the Human Services Department and later for Southwest Behavioral Health Services where she would be working with kids and adults.
Around 2000, she learned EMDR therapy and she noted, “It changed my life.” As with all her deep interests, Ana dove into the study of EMDR therapy. At the time, she was working at ChildHelp. This is an organization that provides individual and family therapy to sexually abused children and adolescents, as well as crisis intervention and working cooperatively with the Phoenix Police Department and justice department throughout the investigative and judicial process to help with family reunification when the offender is a family member in conjunction with treatment. They also facilitated psycho-educational groups for non-offending parents. At the time of Ana’s working there, the director met Carolyn Settle and Robbie Adler-Tapia who were EMDR-trained and looking for a place to do research. They cooperated with a research study and Ana was one of the research therapists.
By 2005, Ana was ready for full time private practice. She found herself working with complex trauma cases more and more and felt that she wanted to be able to explain trauma and EMDR therapy in terms that children could understand. When Ana discovers a need, she crafts a solution using her creativity. She wrote “Dark, Bad Day…Go Away: A book for children about trauma and EMDR.” Her idea was to motivate children to embrace trauma while using EMDR therapy and to let them know what to expect to cut down on children ending EMDR therapy prematurely. This book is translated into Spanish and Japanese.
It was at this time that Ana began presenting her work. As she worked with more kids, she had more and more material to draw from. For the EMDRIA 2006 Conference in Philadelphia, Ana presented her paper on, “Creative Approaches to Motivate, Prepare and Guide Children to Use EMDR.” In 2007, she created a two-day workshop, “STEP by STEP: Making EMDR Effective and Developmentally Appropriate for Children and Adolescents” and taught it in many cities in the United States and Canada. She was delighted that she was invited to speak about her passion and went on to create more workshops.
In 2009, she developed, “Thought Kit for Kids” to help therapists assist children in identifying negative and positive cognitions as well as the VoC. It consists of four sets of cards: two for young children and two for adolescents as well as a booklet with specific EMDR therapy games and protocols to be used with the cards. It assists in helping children select potential targets for EMDR therapy.
At this time, she became a HAP trainer and joined the EMDR Iberoamerica team of trainers. She has been traveling to South America to teach about EMDR with kids and in 2014 became the EMDR trainer in Colombia. She has found a good group of clinicians there who work hard with her to further the teaching of EMDR therapy. They have formed the EMDR IBA Colombia Association. She has designed a 90-hour Diplomate course on EMDR therapy and traumatology and has developed alliances with universities in Colombia.
When she became fascinated with attachment and structural dissociation, she created, “Complex Trauma, Attachment and Dissociative Symptoms: Treating Children with Pervasive Emotion Dysregulation Using EMDR and Adjunctive Approaches” that she taught in several cities, EMDRIA in 2010, in Ecuador, Brazil, Chile, Spain and Canada in 2011, and again at EMDRIA in 2012.
During 2012, Ana co-authored an article with Francine Shapiro in Child and Family Professional, “EMDR therapy with children: Journey into wholeness. This article presents a review of important elements of case conceptualization and the use of EMDR therapy with children.
Ana has been interested and focused on the work with intergenerational trauma. She strongly believes that children carry an intergenerational story. Ana is convinced that a great majority of parents would benefit from receiving full EMDR treatment, so they have space within, to “hold the child’s mind in mind.” Ana developed an attachment-informed model to help heal parents and children in 2013 that she named, “I See You, I Feel You, I know You: An Attachment-Focused Model to Heal the Parent and the Child. She presented it at a plenary session in Phoenix at the Annual Childhood Trauma Conference and in Connecticut and Minneapolis.
Ana published her book in 2013, “EMDR Therapy and Adjunct Approaches with Children: Complex trauma, attachment and dissociation” (Springer). It is an innovative work for EMDR clinicians to increase their knowledge of developmentally appropriate interventions with other tools to use with this difficult population. It specifically explores the eight phases of EMDR therapy to help children with attachment wounds, dissociative issues and emotional dysregulation. It also has a model based on EMDR to help parents to develop mentalizing and reflective capacities. It has been translated into Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin Chinese.
From her dance experience, she knew the importance of the body and decided to train with Pat Ogden in Sensorimotor Therapy. This had a tremendous impact; for Ana, it was a missing piece. She incorporated this work into her practice and included a chapter with Pat in her book.
Ana has been influenced by the work of Francine Shapiro who has been a mentor to her, Dan Siegel, Jaak Panksepp, Onno van der Hart, Pat Ogden, Steve Porges and attachment theory. Ana says however that what has influenced who she is as a therapist and as a teacher is the years of doing her own work. Accessing and embracing the deepest layers of her own self has been enlightening and transformative at a personal and professional level.
By 2013, she created the AGATE Institute. Ana has developed a number of intensive programs: EMDR-Sandtray Specialist; EMDR-Child Specialist Level 1; EMDR Child & Complex Trauma Specialist (Level 2); Attachment-Informed EMDR Program to Heal Intergenerational Wounding and Repair the Parent-Child Attachment Bond; and EMDR Parent-Child Attachment Specialist.
Recently, in conjunction with Sandra Paulsen, she wrote “All the Colors of Me” (AGATE Books, 2016). In this book, they assist children in understanding their dissociative experiences. It is also helpful for mental health practitioners to educate and explain dissociation to children and adolescents. She is in the process of working on a book, “Stories and Storytellers: The thinking mind, the heart and the body-A book for children about healing and EMDR therapy” that will explain EMDR to older kids. She is also writing a book on the EMDR-Sandtray protocol.
In 2017, she will be providing the keynote address and workshops at EMDR Europe, EMDRIA, EMDR United Kingdom and EMDR Japan.
To the EMDR Community:
The EMDR Community is my second family. I have received so much from them. I am full of gratitude for a community that has supported and embraced my work, my ideas, my teachings and who I am. I am blessed to be able to do what I love most and be accompanied and supported by this incredible community.
All her life Ana has been fascinated by her dreams and has become a student of them. Self-taught, she has learned to follow the portents that they bring to her and they have enriched the quality of her life. Although she does not belong to an organized religion, her spiritual beliefs are the foundation of everything she is, and she does. Ana believes that we are part of something greater than any of us. She has great love and respect for everything that exists including the animals, nature and the planet we live in.
Ana continues to enjoy her dancing on her own and with her second husband whom she has been with for 12 years. She goes for walks and likes to exercise, do Yoga and meditation. She also loves to read. She is a devoted advocate for animals and rescues them. She loves nature and one of her dreams is to move to a house with more space to have all kinds of animals and plants! However, what she loves the most is to sit down and create something like a new program, a webinar or a book or and especially new strategies to help children heal.
Ana is an accomplished and prolific colleague who has chosen to use her gift of creativity to enhance our practice of EMDR therapy. Ana, thank you.