Integrating compassion into EMDR for PTSD and CPTSD


PTSD and CPTSD often involve feeling-states of shame and associated self-loathing. Traditional exposure-based protocols, which are effective for fear-based PTSD, are sometimes limited in effectiveness when working with clients with high levels of shame as they can exacerbate a sense of self blame.

Compassion focused therapy (CFT) was developed to help people who suffer from pervasive shame and self-attack. CFT is based upon an evolutionary psychology framework and draws on research from human neurobiology and attachment theory to understand how humans respond to threat.

This paper describes a protocol for integrating compassion focused techniques with EMDR therapy for the desensitization of trauma memories. The protocol includes variants of traditional ‘resource installation’, ‘window of tolerance’, and ‘reciprocal inhibition’ principles. The protocol is carried out in stages. Stage 1 includes psychoeducation and compassionate resource identification. Stage 2 is a modified EMDR memory processing protocol. Significant efforts are made to keep a client engaged with the compassionate ‘mindset’ during the EMDR processing.

Case examples are given including client feedback on their experience of the compassion focused EMDR protocol.






Matthew G. Whalley
Deborah Lee

Original Work Citation

Whalley, M., & Lee, D. (2019, March 29). Integrating compassion into EMDR for PTSD and CPTSD.



“Integrating compassion into EMDR for PTSD and CPTSD,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed October 30, 2020,

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