Somebody found my Google blog today by asking this question:  “Can an untrained EMDR therapist cause . . ”  I’m assuming the complete question would be something like, “Can an untrained EMDR therapist cause damage to a client?”

My reply to the question above is, “Yes, an untrained or poorly trained therapist who works with EMDR can definitely cause damage to a client!”  I was, in fact, damaged by a previous therapist who didn’t know what she was doing. The memory of this bad experience slowed my recovery because it made me reluctant to continue in therapy.  In order to help you avoid some of the pitfalls involved in finding a competent therapist, here is a guide published by the EMDR Institute:

Choosing a Clinician:

Make sure that the EMDR training your clinician has taken is approved by EMDR International Association or EMDR -Europe. Clinicians may have unknowingly taken substandard training. EMDR should be used only by licensed clinicians specifically trained in EMDR. Take time to interview your prospective clinician. Make sure that he or she has the appropriate training in EMDR and has kept up with the latest developments. The basic course is at least 5 days of training over two weekends, or spans several months, plus supervision, consultation, and continuing education. While training is mandatory, it is not sufficient. Choose a clinician who is experienced with EMDR and has a good success rate. Make sure that the clinician is comfortable in treating your particular problem. In addition, it is important that you feel a sense of trust and rapport with the clinician. Ask each prospective clinician:

  1. Have you received both Part 1 and 2 of the basic training?
  2. Was your training program approved by EMDRIA or EMDR Europe?
  3. Have you kept up to date about the latest protocols and developments?
  4. How many people with my particular problems or disorder have you successfully treated?
  5. What is your success rate?
  6. Are you doing standard EMDR as it is (a) described in Dr. Shapiro’s text, (b) supported by EMDRIA, and (c) been tested in research?
  7. Will you discuss with me the way EMDR can deal with my obvious symptoms?
  8. Will you also discuss with me the ways EMDR can be used to help me live a happier, more productive life by treating the other negative memories, beliefs, feelings, and actions that may be running my life?

Following the guidelines above will help your chances of finding a competent, experienced therapist who will help you heal your C-PTSD, but these guidelines alone will not do the job.  I had a list of guidelines in my mind when I chose my previous therapist.  However, the fact that our therapist-client relationship sank like a rock was due in part, at least, to my overriding the red flags of warning sent up by my intuition.  Had I paid attention to the message my intuition sent me, I could have saved myself from a very bad experience, an experience that I certainly did not deserve or need!

Remember:  You have the right to evaluate a prospective therapist and to make sure the person is qualified to help you and is a good fit for you.  Try not to be as timid as I was!  Do your research on the person, test the waters in an interview, and make one of the most important decisions of your life.  My best wishes for a productive and beautiful relationship with your therapist!