Treating shame with EMDR


Trauma related disorders can be traced back to life-threatening events, and consequently treatment usually focuses on the underlying stressful experiences. However, little consideration is given to the fact that in complex traumatised clients, most of whom were victims of interpersonal violence in childhood, the most stressful events are difficult relationships and attachment experiences in contact with parents or close caregivers.

These experiences were usually life-threatening only to a limited extent; many were experienced as devaluing or shameful. The feeling of shame, actually a highly adaptive feeling, thus becomes maladaptive for those affected, leads to difficulties in the therapeutic relationship and intensifies dissociative reactions (Talbot 2004). The consideration of these stressful feelings in the therapeutic process facilitates the treatment of memories of interpersonal violence and enhances the therapeutic approach to the underlying structural problems of our clients.

At the beginning I will describe the role of shame in the development of a child. In the second part I will focus on the impact of pathological shame on clients and on the therapeutic process. Finally, an EMDR protocol (Blind2therapist, Blore 2009, 2013, Farrell 2016) will be presented that facilitate the treatment of shame – based experiences






Helga Matthess

Original Work Citation

Matthess, H. (2019, June). Treating shame with EMDR. Presentation at the 20th EMDR Europe Association Conference, Krakow, Poland




“Treating shame with EMDR,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed October 30, 2020,

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