Three Obstacles to Incorporate EMDR into Clinical Practice


3 blocks in mastering EMDR

Before I started my CIT training, I did an unofficial survey to my colleagues and on the EMDR Facebook page to understand clinicians’ difficulties in implementing EMDR in their clinical practices. Three key issues came up based on my “unofficial” qualitative research: overwhelmed, uncertain, and defeated.


The eight-phase and three-prolog model sounds simple but not easy. On top of it, it seems so easy during the practicum in my training. During the practicum in training, it seemed that the magic happened when I just followed the scripts and waved my fingers. However, once I started to use it in my practice, my clients didn’t give me the answers I wanted to hear when I followed the scripts. The magic also didn’t happen after I waved my fingers! Suddenly, the model that seemed so simple became not accessible anymore.

Furthermore, when I asked about my issues on different Facebook groups, I got various responses, which made me feel even more confused and overwhelmed.


The other issue I encountered was incorporating my therapeutic style into EMDR.

What do I say to my current clients, so they are willing to try EMDR?
How can I introduce EMDR to new clients?
I used to intake in a certain way. How can I incorporate EMDR into my usual treatment flow?
I used to take this approach when clients were experiencing certain emotions. But, with EMDR, what’s the proper response? How can I maintain who I am as a clinician while incorporating EMDR into my day-to-day practice?

One of my most uncertain experiences is to shut my mouth and speak little to get out of my way and allow the client’s processing without interrupting it. A part of me wanted to intervene, while the other part wanted to stick with “getting out of the way,” as I learned in training. I constantly question myself and am uncertain when is the right time to intervene. I felt as if I was holding my familiar clinical style on the one hand and EMDR treatment protocol on the other. I am so uncertain about what to do and which way to go.


A few months after my Basic Training, I felt very defeated.

I worked with clients with Complex Trauma as my primary target population. I can conceptualize the client’s issue but don’t know how to “make it happen” in the EMDR protocol. I felt I could see what was happening in my head but not make it happen in the treatment process. When my clients’ complex trauma and different situations came out “NOT according to the EMDR protocol scrip,” I felt that my clients’ processing “hijacked” the EMDR protocol. I know it sounded funny and irrational to say that. However, I did feel that way a few months after completing my basic training.

I think the worst defeated feeling came from the irrational thoughts: “I can’t figure this out on my own even though I have been practicing clinical work for so many years.”

I reached a point when I felt overwhelmed, uncertain, and defeated all the time. Then, finally, I realized that I either had to return to my familiar treatment style or seek help.

That’s when the consultation came into the picture.

Before I was certified in 2019, I received 28 group consultations and 50 individual consultations for three years. The group consultation offered me opportunities to learn from other people. But, more importantly, it helped me to see “I am not alone” in feeling overwhelmed, uncertain, and defeated. I also learned from different clinicians’ unique learning processes in integrating EMDR into their daily clinical practice.

I can tailor my needs during individual consultation sessions. For example, I often discussed videos from my session with my consultants. It was helpful as my consultant repeatedly pointed out my clients’ nonverbal language and helped me pay attention to the details I didn’t see before.

More importantly, those consultation sessions helped me to master EMDR’s eight-phase and three-prolog protocol and integrate them into my clinical style.

I no longer feel overwhelmed because I can master the protocol with ease and know how to maneuver between different phases.

I no longer feel uncertain because I know how to problem-solve with different strategies when encountering unexpected client responses.

I no longer feel defeated. Instead, I feel confident and empowered to trust the model works and that the clients’ brains will take them to where they need to be as long as we trust the process.

More importantly, I realized I could master the EMDR protocol in my daily practice instead of focusing on the issues raised during Phase Four processing. For example, during the history taking, I can use the client’s recent triggering event (present) to identify the images representing the worst part of the experiences, emotions, negative cognition, and physical sensations. By utilizing this structure, I can help the client see a series of events all fit with the same negative cognition and use the client’s experiences to explain the AIP model and to flow back to find the target memory.

This example sounds simple, but my ability to maneuver it without feeling overwhelmed, uncertain, and defeated resulted from my dedication to the consultation process.

Do you share my experiences? I would love to hear from you and your experiences to assist my understanding and growth in helping future clinicians. I also love to have an opportunity to work with you in your journey to incorporate EMDR into your practice.


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