In Celebration: Katherine E. B. Davis



On September 11, 2012, our friend, Katherine E. B. Davis died. She was a humanitarian and enhanced the lives of everyone around her. Katherine tirelessly worked to uphold the rights of children and championed training programs to increase the awareness of her community about mental health issues. She was a loving and kind support to her family, friends and colleagues. This celebration of Kathy’s life is an updated version of an article written in 2008 and is in collaboration with her husband, Robert Gelbach. It includes the contributions she continued to make since that time and recollections of some  of many of those colleagues who loved and respected her.

With roots that go deep into American history, Katherine Davis’ experience in life turned her into a woman who deeply understood the diversity of the human spirit. Although Kathy’s ancestors did not arrive on the Mayflower, her family came to America in 1723. Kathy was born in Ashville, NC to Beauford Buchanan Davis and Pryor Langford Davis. Her father was career military and traveled the world in the service of his country with his wife and daughter in tow. The Davis’ enjoyed the excitement of being placed into a new culture and learning all they could about the people and the new knowledge to which they were exposed. She averaged one new school a year and was educated in learning institutions both on and off military bases. As she traveled the globe and was dropped into one new school after another, she learned the

skill of “scrappiness” that a smart, only child of a military family needed to know when she had no siblings or friends to “have her back.” One of the most significant values that Kathy learned from being in a military family was service. No matter what else you did in your life, it was crucial to do what you believed in and to be useful in the world. This is evidenced by her family history and in Kathy’s own life.

Kathy completed high school in Avondale, Georgia and went on to Nursing School at the Medical College of Georgia. During the initial part of her training she learned, “I was the worst prospective nurse” and quickly moved into Sociology and Psychology. She transferred and later graduated from Georgia State University with a B.S. in Sociology and Psychology. Intrigued by what she learned, she attended Tulane University’s School of Social Work, with an emphasis in Clinical Social Work with children. In 1966, she was granted her M.S.W.

Kathy has been exposed to the vagaries of living throughout her life, especially during childhood and adolescence. They have deeply affected her:

Kathy is 5 years old in China, on the coast, north of Shanghai. She learned some Chinese and interpreted for her parents. In China, people pulled rickshaws and corpse wagons were pulled past her complex daily with piles of bodies picked off the streets the previous night. Bodies of babies, usually females, floated in the water as she and her family traveled by boat to other cities.

Still in China, Kathy faced her own personal trauma at age five. Watching adults digging in the dirt in the safety of her military complex, she started to laugh thinking that they were having fun digging as she did. One of her “buddies,” a guard who had befriended her, heard her laughing. Misunderstanding her behavior, he shamed her for laughing at people looking for food. While angry, he tried to push her out of the gate. This was terrifying for Kathy as she had been told if she were put outside the gate, she would be kidnapped. As she was not proficient in Chinese, she was unable to explain to him the misunderstanding. She did not want to tell anyone what happened because, even at the young age of 5, Kathy knew if she said anything, he would be fired, and his children and family would starve.

She is 11 years old in Guantanamo, Cuba. Traveling to Santiago, she remembered the fear of entering the jungle overgrowth or cane fields as Fidel Castro’s men hid in the mountains and often came down for supplies. Desperate men roamed the streets and were dangerous because of their lack of food and inability to support their families.

Kathy is 22 years of age and a Social Work graduate student at Tulane University working. It is 1965, Hurricane Betsy came roaring through New Orleans, flooding the 9th ward and creating similarities to the recent Hurricane Katrina catastrophe. This was the first time Kathy was exposed to a natural disaster and she and her fellow students were sent out with the relief effort. Her duties were to help children who were waiting out the storm in empty public safe spaces, not knowing if they had a home to go home to or not.

As a result of these early trauma experiences and exposure to diversity, Kathy demonstrated a great capacity for Social Work. She began her career at Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio working in the Comprehensive Care Clinic, assessing patients with undiagnosed medical and psychiatric disorders.

In 1970, she moved to the Yale New Haven Hospital as the Director of the Child Abuse Program. While there, she was responsible for casework, teaching, research and chairing the Child Abuse Committee. Other duties consisted of Co-chairing the State Advisory Committee on Child Abuse (which drafted the first child abuse statute in Connecticut), organizing the regional committee on Child Abuse and conducting the first Connecticut Parent’s Anonymous group. This was all in just three years!

In 1973, Kathy went to Hamden Mental Health Center. She became a Member of the new State Advisory Board on Child Abuse and authored, “The Private Agency’s Contribution to Child Abuse Prevention” which was distributed nationally. She was a Consultant to community groups and worked on grants and program development. She became “The Family Therapist” on “Families,” a tri-weekly WNHC broadcast on her local TV station. She also wrote a weekly newspaper article on important mental health topics. Her goal was to promote a regular Mental Health presence in the community. The year 1975 was a particularly significant time for Kathy. Most importantly, she married her husband, Robert A. Gelbach. Members of the EMDR community know him as the past Executive Director of the EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Program. She also became the Clinical Director at the Hamden Mental Health Center, where she stayed for 10 years. The clinical staff she supervised saw approximately 7000 cases per year. She was responsible for the in-service training for the social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists on staff, and directed the clinical training programs for Master and Doctoral level students. She facilitated the training of her staff in the modalities she found helpful for clinical practice: Cognitive Therapy; Bowenian Family Therapy and Gestalt Therapy. She trained Hamden Police officers on Domestic and Child Abuse and Conflict Mediation and taught Social Work as an Adjunct Professor at the University of New Haven.

She began her private practice in 1984. Around this time, she also did short term therapy, staff training and development for the Employee Assistance Program at the Hospital of Saint Raphael. In 1990, she stopped her EAP work and went into full time private practice.

In the early nineties, Kathy was a Trainer-Consultant for family owned businesses and a trainer for Pitney Bowes and Connecticut Transit in Substance Abuse and Family. She also conducted weekly consultation to small private practice and agency groups in Trauma, Child and Family Therapy. With this wide range of clinical experience at the individual, family and community levels, Kathy was seeing the range of human suffering. By 1993, after 26 years of service in the mental health field, she was ready, as she says, for “the gift of EMDR.” Steve Lazrove, a colleague in her practice, introduced her to EMDR. Her immediate response was “I could not imagine not working hard to make sure that everyone else I could impact would learn about EMDR. It makes it more effective to work in the area of trauma yourself, without burning out.” With this goal, she learned as much as she could about EMDR. In 1995, she became an EMDR Institute Facilitator and, in 2008, became an EMDR Basic Training Trainer for EMDRHAP.

Since her work with EMDR began, Kathy was involved with many projects, mainly through EMDRHAP. In 2004, Kathy and Leslie Weiss created “Traumatology and Stabilization". This EMDRHAP program was taught to clinicians and paraprofessionals throughout the United States and in EMDRHAP’s international projects in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Kathy herself was part of a team that brought basic EMDR and the traumatology workshop to US military chaplains in Germany. The workshop is currently being offered through EMDRHAP(

In 2005, Kathy and Leslie Weiss worked with the late Norma Hotaling, founder of Standing Against Global Exploitation (SAGE). SAGE is a San Francisco project to help women leave the sex industry. They worked with Kristie Miller to create a 4-day training program for peer counselors at SAGE and similar programs across the nation. This program was funded by the Justice Department Office of Juvenile Justice and was published as SAGE’s “Trauma and Addiction Recovery Paraprofessional Training Program”. This project marked an important collaboration between EMDRHAP and SAGE. 

During this time, Kathy had a busy private practice with children and adults. She wrote a chapter, “Treating birth related posttraumatic stress” in Robin Shapiro’s book, EMDR Solutions II and was involved with Kathleen Wheeler on a research project. She was an EMDR Institute Facilitator,

EMDRIA Consultant and member of EMDRIA’s Membership Committee and volunteer EMDRHAP Trainer. As a former Commissioner for the Persons with Disabilities Commission in Hamden, Kathy explored the applications of EMDR to disability-related trauma, whether arising from the original injury, diagnosis and treatment, or discrimination. When asked what she would like to say to the EMDR community, this was Kathy’s response:

“I consider myself an average clinician who had the good luck to encounter EMDR. Since then, my burning desire has been to get the word out about this amazing psychotherapy. Not only has it helped me personally, but, professionally, it enabled me to continue to work in an area that I consider most important (trauma) without the burn-out, so often the result of long work with traumatized clients. I have tried to take advantage of every opportunity to pursue this goal and have tried to tackle personal issues that stand in the way. The rewards have been great. All you reluctant clinicians out there: Get cracking. Do that research, that speaking engagement, those opportunities that are only yours to do. You will be glad you did.”

Kathy spoke from real experience as she originally had debilitating performance anxiety. She processed her anxiety over public speaking with EMDR and then lectured about EMDR and became an EMDRHAP trainer, speaking to large groups. EMDR had been crucial to Kathy’s personal growth in other ways as well, such as returning to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina with Hurricane Betsy whistling through her mind, as she remembered this earlier traumatic experience. Working productively to help the survivors of Hurricane Katrina and her personal EMDR work were crucial to the transformation of this old experience and dealing with the new one.

Over the next 4 years, as an EMDRHAP Trainer, Kathy was involved in “getting the word out” about EMDR to as many practitioners as she could – especially if they were in agencies that supported children. Her goal was to expand the use of EMDR in non-profit and public clinics. Over her professional life, Kathy gained a deep wisdom that those around her acknowledged. Colleagues spoke to her about their clients, about challenges in teaching and, for help with writing about mental health issues. She took time to help those around her to grow and tackle what was difficult. Her most recent project was putting together the “Stabilization and Trauma” workshop, originally for clinicians and then for non-clinicians. She thought it was essential for people to understand the nature of trauma and what could be done about it. She had an easy-going way of presenting that won people over and made the material she was teaching accessible. She illustrated her workshops with many personal anecdotes of successes and failures, resulting in material that people found they could incorporate into their work.

In recognition of her efforts, in 2010, she received the “Social Worker of the Year” Award from the Connecticut Association of Social Workers. In 2011, she received the “Elizabeth Snyker Outstanding Voluntary Service” Award from EMDRHAP.

Kathy and Bob were avid birders and enjoyed the outdoor sports of biking, camping and hiking. She enjoyed reading and was a print-maker, creating mono-prints and etchings in an impressionistic style Kathy is survived by her husband, Robert Gelbach; her children, Scott, Rebecca, Jonah and Amy; her sister, Deborah; her brother, Pryor; and grandson, Henry.

Memories of Kathy

Robbie Dunton (EMDR Institute Coordinator)

“I remember meeting Kathy Davis and Leslie Weiss at the Level 1 training in DC in the spring of 1993, and thinking, ‘These women are so positive, intelligent and high energy.’ At the time, little did I know that both women would make extraordinary contributions to the EMDR community. When I next met them, the following summer, they were highly enthusiastic about EMDR and the therapeutic results they had with their clients. I gave a short presentation on,” Using EMDR with Children” to a group of participants, Kathy being among them. She, too, had used EMDR with children and the group was impressed with her astute and discerning comments. Although we lived on opposite coasts, Kathy and I kept in touch to share our common interest in working with children and adolescents; Kathy was always available and willing to share her vast experience and knowledge of treating young clients and insights as an educator. Many of you know Kathy from her excellent advanced specialty workshops highlighting the use of EMDR with children that she presented at EMDR Institute Part 2 trainings and EMDRIA conferences. Not many people know that Kathy served on the EMDR Institute Manual Revision Committee, volunteering countless hours to review and make modifications to both manuals. Kathy was a mentor whose wisdom and guidance were an invaluable resource for me. I will always cherish the memory of her beautiful smile and cheerful attitude, creativity and intelligence, sincerity and integrity.”

Hope Payson (Previous Clinical Coordinator at EMDRHAP)

“Often in the EMDR world, the people you get to know in your initial EMDR training years become your teacher, mentor and, if you are lucky, your friend. I experienced this with Kathy Davis. Kathy was my Part II trainer, consultant and mentor. I logged many hours at her kitchen table as she helped me to strengthen my EMDR skills and navigate through the process of certification, becoming a Consultant, and eventually a HAP facilitator. The population my consultees and I serve are complex clients suffering with addictions, long histories of trauma, legal involvement and homelessness. These are people who bring a sense of urgency into the office. With Kathy at my side, I was able to assist my clients and consultees with more grace, guts and confidence than I actually think I possessed. Years later, some of my most challenging clients credit me for their peaceful lives. I credit their hard work, Francine Shapiro, EMDR, and Kathy Davis.

I am sad to say goodbye to Kathy, she's enriched my life, as a clinician and a human being. She was a selfless, kind, and confident woman. A woman who was not afraid to stand up for others and what she believed in. Her time here was much too short, and I know her family misses her dearly.

I am not the only clinician or human being Kathy has coached along, she shepherded hundreds as a trainer and consultant, along with all the clients she helped and the family she cared so much for. Hundreds of people are living better lives because of her-much more than a ripple, she created an unending flow that will persist for years.”

Kathleen Wheeler (EMDR Colleague)

“Kathy was a professional and master therapist with the highest integrity who was highly respected in the

EMDR community and beyond. After I took EMDR Part 2 training, I began to see Kathy in 2001 and we worked together over the next 10 years, sometimes every week and sometimes every month. Together, we developed an EMDR research proposal on depression and she also helped me write my book that teaches advanced practice nurses how to do psychotherapy. When I say helped me, she read every word and played a huge role in the development of the framework for the book. We based the whole book on Adaptive Information Processing as a meta- model for all psychotherapies. She knew how to apply theory to complex clinical problems and her insights and comments helped my own ideas evolve. The book won several awards and is now used by graduate psychiatric nursing programs all over the country. I never could have written that book without her. Not only have I personally benefitted enormously from Kathy’s wisdom, but, so have my patients, my students and their patients. Kathy’s reach far exceeded what she would have ever imagined. She was an amazing woman who touched all who knew her with her generosity of spirit. Her wise words, goodness, and presence fill my heart now with gratitude that I was lucky enough to know her.”

Leslie Weiss (Best Friend and Colleague)

My way of knowing Kathy is too large and too completely a part of me to fit neatly into any kind of words. The best I can hope for is a metaphor: We were like lichen. Lichen is an organism composed of two completely separate beings. While each organism is capable of conducting an independent life, together they can thrive in the most extreme environments. Together they have a lacy beauty and rugged toughness. I first met Kathy when I went to work at Hamden Mental Health Service in 1975. I was 28 and new at everything. I was new as a clinician, new as a woman, new to Connecticut. Kathy was my boss. She taught me. We showed up for each other during our personal and professional joys and sorrow. We kept on learning and growing together. We used to call ourselves Tweedledee and Tweedledum. We finished each other’s sentences.

Over many years, Kathy and I had many conversations about death, dying and the quality of life. Those exchanges came back to me this past year as I watched Kathy and Bob and their family walk this difficult path. Kathy and Bob knew full well what the story was when she was diagnosed with Glioblastoma. Kathy was committed to living each day well, with quality and lived out her days with dignity and with kindness all around her. She loved and was loved in return. She walked her talk. For us, her life has been way too short, but it has been rich and meaningful.”

Katherine Davis was a versatile woman who exemplified the wealth of experience that is in this EMDR community. She continued to engage the credo of her family and the military community in which her father served by her dedication, her service and her passion. There is no better legacy to pass on to her family, her clients, her community, her country and the world.



“In Celebration: Katherine E. B. Davis,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed September 27, 2021,

Output Formats