Community engagement

EMDR Clinicians reaching out to the most vulnerable: contributions of EMDR

As EMDR Europe, we feel that we are making a contribution to mental health related social change. We are incessantly committed to humanitarian principles. The overall goal is to alleviate the suffering of the people who are immediatly exposed to traumatic events, while at the same preventing the transgenerational transmission of emotional pain and violence, at the root of all trauma legacies across generations.

EMDR Europe is a platform for therapists from the most diverse approaches to come together, shaping the future of humanitarian action through their expertise in EMDR therapy.

Disasters and emergencies come in many forms, can occur anywhere at any time and go from natural causes such as earthquakes, fires, floods, and severe storms to man-made causes, such as terroristic attacks. Also, communities may have to face multiple forms of violence such as peer violence, suicidal behavior, child maltreatment, intimate partner and domestic violence, teen dating violence, sexual violence, elder abuse.

EMDR Europe is able to respond to existing needs by reaching out to the affected communities through stronger cooperation and coordination with institutions and government agencies, and by implementing tailored trauma-focused EMDR early interventions to the realities of each context and mindful of each component’s mandate, competences and skills.

The application of EMDR after a natural or man made disaster, or after any other form of emergency, has rapidly increased over the past years in many countries throughout the world. Research has shown that experiencing devastating events such as the loss of a home and family members, being exposed to horrifying scenes, is a severe risk factor for mental health in adults and children. Along with this, trauma caused by collective disasters can impair a person’s social, cognitive and emotional functions (Fletcher, 2003).

Clinical observation and field studies indicate that EMDR can be beneficial for alleviating excessive distress and preventing complications in the weeks and months following critical events. EMDR has proven to be a useful treatment intervention, both in the immediate aftermath of disaster, as well as later. The ability to achieve a rapid resolution of trauma symptoms often after only a few EMDR sessions, allows clinicians to treat many survivors in a very short period of time. This makes EMDR an ideal intervention after an emergency crisis (a catastrophic and traumatizing event). EMDR works well in responding to the clinical needs of rapid interventions within most of these diverse settings. It is a highly flexible therapeutical tool and promotes operative resilience for assesment, setting, therapeutic alliance.

In particular, in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, highly specialized clinicians who adopt EMDR can give an important contribution to prevent mental health problems in disaster-affected populations. An early intervention right after the traumatic event, mitigates acute reactions of many survivors in a relatively short time, preventing any further psychopathological developments, and normalizes survivors’ reactions, as well as supports their natural coping strategies by increasing their resilience. In such framework, EMDR offers an added value by delivering primary, secondary and tertiary prevention (Caplan). The aim is to take care of the emotional, spiritual and functional aspects of trauma, from prevention through bereavement.

EMDR practitioners serving in the many humanitarian interventions throughout the countries have extensive training in the delivery of assessment, individual, group and family treatment services.