The fundamental importance of the therapeutic relationship in trauma work and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing therapy

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Date
2023
Authors
O'Brien, Cara
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University College Cork
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Abstract
The use of Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy has become increasingly prevalent, particularly in the context of complex trauma. Despite this, there is a paucity of research exploring this particular mode of therapy from the therapist perspective. Anecdotally, there is a lack of access to the phenomenology of what is occurring in the processing of traumatic memories in-session as the use of bilateral stimulation in EMDR produces a physiological response in the client, with the reprocessing typically occurring internally. In this sense, EMDR differs from other forms of trauma therapy and may pose unique challenges for therapists. However, little is known about the lived experience of the therapist using EMDR in therapy. The current study adopted Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis to qualitatively explore the in-session experience of five clinical psychologists who use EMDR in their practice. Four group experiential themes were interpreted from the data, drawn from the personal experiential themes of each participant. The overarching narrative that emerged from the themes was that the premise of EMDR is the release of physiological distress associated with trauma exposure and the therapist needs to allow this physiological processing to unfold organically. The therapist plays an active role in this process through attunement and maintaining client dual attention during bilateral stimulation. However, none of this can occur without trust in the process and the establishment of a strong therapeutic relationship between the therapist and client.
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Keywords
EMDR , Therapeutic relationship , Therapist experience , Therapy
Citation
O'Brien, C. 2023. The fundamental importance of the therapeutic relationship in trauma work and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing therapy. DClinPsych Thesis, University College Cork.