Transformational EMDR Therapy Training

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy Training COMING SOON!

Transformational EMDR: A Death-Rebirth Sequence in Six Stages (What would Jung go with…?) Stay Tuned TBA

Presented by EMDR Educators of Florida
Andrew J. Dobo, Psy.D.
Licensed Psychologist PY 6916
EMDRIA Certified EMDR Therapist
EMDRIA Approved Consultant and EMDRIA Trainer

Advanced EMDR Course: 12 Continuing Education Credits

This course explores EMDR therapy as an accelerant to the psychoanalytic process. This use of EMDR therapy does not simply treat symptoms; it transforms lives. The transformation process is grueling. The process has six distinct stages in this psychological transformation. These six stages occur in all transformation (i.e., religious transformation, business transformation and even political transformation). This approach to EMDR therapy causes psychological profound adaptive changes, which in turn cause behavioral changes for the client- a rebirth of sorts occurs. Below describes the process and the research behind this use of EMDR therapy.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a model compatible for most clinical settings. EMDR has established itself as a viable psychotherapy for the treatment of trauma and other related mental health disorders. EMDR is an effective treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Research is continuing to demonstrate the widespread applicability of EMDR in a variety of clinical presentations (Zoler, M. 1998). This training adds to EMDR therapy’s applicability by identifying the Transformational Negative Core Belief and creating an environment for this belief to shift to its adaptive counterpart by using EMDR therapy.

Trauma and Symptom Resolution: EMDR versus Transformational EMDR

The difference between symptom resolution work versus transformational work is that the transformational work begins after the symptomatic issues are resolved. Transformational work is a six-stage process. Symptom resolution is only stage three. Most top-down therapies end there, at symptom resolution, because that is where the medical model tells us to end our work, and most talk therapies do not have the power to transform a person’s maladaptive schema to an adaptive schema. They simply treat symptoms and end therapy, letting the person’s maladaptive negative belief thrive within their patient’s life.

A considerable amount of research (Ball and Cecero, 2001; Calvete, 2008; Chakhssi et al., 2012; Jovev and Jackson, 2004; Nordahl et al., 2005; Petrocelli et al., 2001) has demonstrated the association between core schemas and maladaptive behavior. Research reveals the effects of a maladaptive schema (Crick and Dodge, 1994, 1996; Dodge and Schwartz, 1997) will cause the individual to act from a position of misperception caused by the problematic schema. Transformational EMDR dismantled the maladaptive core schema and its misperceptions, creating an adaptive schema resulting in more accurate perceptions.

Another difference in transformational work is that it may or may not begin with a traumatic experience. So rather than exploring a person’s history with a “trauma” timeline, the bar is lowered to a timeline of “distressing” events that may or may not include a traumatic event. Creation of a maladaptive schema rarely requires a trauma; furthermore, research shows that normal stressful daily life events can cause as many PTSD symptoms as someone who experienced a severe trauma (Mol, S.S.L., Arntz, A., et. al., 2005). Therefore, a clinical diagnosis is not required for a client to benefit and even become transformed by EMDR therapy.

Research shows that negative themes about the self and others have their origin in early interactions with significant caregiving relationships that do not meet the children’s core needs (connection, acceptance, autonomy, definition of limits, and safeness). Additionally, we know children do not have the maturity or cognitive ability to defend themselves against a distressing event like something as commonplace as a teacher yelling at them for some infraction. Later in life, the subject can be triggered in any situation where schema-relevant information is activated (Young et al., 2003). Transformational EMDR dismantles these triggers and causes the schema to shift adaptively, moving the client to a stable sense of self.

The transformational negative cognitions are identified like most negative cognitions, in EMDR therapy’s Phase I: History taking and timeline development. The development of the timeline and negative cognition identification/approach (Andrade, Kavanagh, and Baddeley, 1997; Lipke, 1999) are explained and practiced in preparation for the dual awareness stimulation (DAS)/bi-lateral stimulation (BLS), which is also reviewed in this advanced training (Andrade et al., 1997; Kavanaugh, Freese, Andrade, and May, 2001). The difference, however, is the interpretation of the information gathered in Phase I. It is a focus on identifying the transformational cognition rather than any negative cognition that might relate to a specific, narrower associative channel.

The dual awareness stimulation (DAS) is administered, explained, demonstrated and practiced within the context of the standard EMDR therapeutic model. In the training, DAS is employed only after the transformational cognition is identified and used within Phase 3’s assessment. Once the assessment is completed, utilizing the transformational cognition the trainees can proceed to Phase 4 – DAS. (Andrade et al., 1997; Kavanaugh, Freese, Andrade, and May, 2001, Shapiro, 2018).

This six-stage transformational process requires complete fidelity to the EMDR therapy model: The transformational cognitions require the Eight Phase treatment model, the three-pronged approach and fidelity to the eight-step protocol. This six stages landscape is the environment where the eight phases live as the transformational process proceeds.

There are common patterns that guide the therapist to predictable targets in each stage. For example, as the negative cognition is dismantled, the client loses their identity (stage 4). This stage creates obstacles in the present. The discomfort of the fourth stage requires more present and future target focus. Whereas during stage three, the dismantling or initial EMDR work requires more historic targeting of life events as it dismantles the origins or the maladaptive core schema. Therefore, there is a focus on the past (Dobo, 2015).

What are Transformational Cognitions?

There are two remarkable transformational cognitions. The two transformational negative cognitions are: I don’t matter and/or I’m not good enough. All other negative beliefs are less powerful and limiting than these two transformation cognitions. Almost all other negative cognitions are contained within these two beliefs. For example: I’m not good enough includes negative beliefs like: I’m stupid; I’m fat; I’m ugly; I can’t trust my judgment; I don’t deserve love; I can’t show my emotions; I hate my body; to name a few. When I’m not good enough is employed, it has the potential to process all the previously named beliefs and their triggering situations where these beliefs were experienced. Care must be taken when using the transformative belief. An understanding of the six-stage map is essential for the therapist and the patient. Dismantling a 40- or 50-year-old core belief is a cataclysmic psychological event, therefore, great care and education must be done before this work begins. This preparation is done in Phase 1 and reinforced in Phase 2 to ensure the patient understands what effect such change can have on their life, family and friends.

The Six Stages of Transformation within the Eight-Phase Model

As previously mentioned, the six stages of transformation occur within the eight phases of EMDR therapy, including the three-pronged approach, the eight-step protocol and the Adaptive Informational Processing Model. The six stages of transformation become the structure in which the eight-phase model of EMDR therapy works. This marriage is described below:

These six stages have a vast amount of research individually evidencing their impact in the psychology of an individual, but there is no research that identifies each of these psychological realties occurring in a linear six-stage process. It is discussed here for the first time other than some of the pioneering work of C.G. Jung, who had a vast knowledge of the transformational process. The reality of these stages is obvious, yet, psychology has not recognized these stages or patterns until perhaps now.

The Six Stages

Stage One: Avoidance/Denial
Stage Two: Surrender
Stage Three: Dismantling the old self/the dismantling of the maladaptive schema and its companion negative core belief
Stage Four: Loss of Identity/Chaos and Confusion
Stage Five: Initiating the shift to the adaptive cognition/Jungian rebirth
Stage Six: Renewal/Assimilation of the new way/the new schema accepted/Jung’s new self

These six stages exist in spiritual transformation, business transformation, and psychological transformation.

The spiritual explanation is discussed in my book, Unburdening Souls at the Speed of Thought: Psychology, Christianity and the Transformational Power of EMDR. See it briefly below:

Avoidance: “Father, can this cup pass from me?”
Surrender: “Not my will but your will be done.”
Dismantling: The crucifixion
Chaos confusion: Three days in the tomb. Being lost in the desert. There are many metaphors for this confused state in most religions.
Renewal: Resurrection-rebirth
Assimilation: Ascension-assimilation of the true self

In business you need not look further than the popular television shows where an expert enters a failing business in the eleventh hour to save it.

Stage One: Avoidance: The business owners watched their business fail without changing. They avoid their reality. This old way is no longer working, but they act as if everything is fine, even though they will be out of business in a week.
Stage Two: Surrender: The expert enters and insists on having full control. In other words, the business owner must surrender control to the bringer of the new way.
Stage Three: Dismantling the old way. The expert dismantles the entire operation and any vestige of what was no longer remains. It is destroyed.
Stage Four: Loss of identity: The owner feels confused, helpless, angry and lost in the midst of chaos and confusion and a loss of identity. There is a desire to retreat to the old way. Thinking to themselves, “This is a mistake.”
Stage Five: Renewal: The expert continues to rebuild, and things look like they are improving. The owner slowly reaches a point of reluctant acceptance considering the new way might work.
Stage Six: Assimilation, the new way is completely accepted and there is barely a memory of the old way. Things are better than anyone ever imagined they could be.

This exact six-stage process is experienced in transformational psychological work with EMDR therapy as the accelerant.

What do the EMDR transformational clients experience?

Serious issues occur when transformational negative cognitions are identified and processed. Shapiro warns about the challenges to clients when these dramatic and permanent changes occur (Shapiro, 2003, 2018). She offers no specifics as to what will happen and what should be done about these changes, but asks it be addressed during informed consent. Murray Bowen is more specific about what happens in a family when a family member changes their role, but still with little suggestion as to how to navigate through the challenges such changes bring. In this transformational model, EMDR therapy focused on “present” targets usually resolves most of these problems.

A Literature Review of the Six Stages

The first stage is avoidance of addressing a problem. Avoidance is a well-known coping mechanism that often is accompanied by other defense mechanisms like denial, minimization, and intellectualization. The severity of the trauma seems to be correlated to the intensity and strength of the avoidance. (Badour et al., 2012; Silverstein, M., et al., 2015; Sullivan, T.P., 2014; Ullman, S., 2012). Avoidance often occurs before therapy starts, but clients can withhold significant trauma(s) from the therapist even in the midst of therapy.

The second stage is surrender to the process. A level of cooperation begins. EMDR therapists instruct the client to “just allow whatever is going to happen to happen” (Shapiro, 2018). In other words, simply surrender to this process. Alcoholics often have to hit bottom to break though denial (Pickard, H., 2016), to finally surrender to treatment (Rego, M.D., 2006). Alcoholics Anonymous’s first step of the twelve steps is surrender, “Admit I am powerless over alcohol.” Avoidance does not only occur with alcoholics. Most people that come for therapy have avoided their issues for years. John Gottman reports in his research of couples that most couples in distress wait six years before seeking help from a couple’s therapist (Gottman, 2006). Only after years of avoidance are they ready to surrender to the process of therapy (Safran, J.D., 2016).

The third stage is the dismantling of the maladaptive schema as identified by its negative core belief. Stage three is when EMDR’s dual awareness stimulation begins. There are many negative cognitive schemas: Abandonment, Mistrust, Abuse, Defectiveness, Shame, Social Isolation, Alienation, Failure, Entitlement, and Insufficient Self-Control (for a description of each of these schemas, see Young et al., 2003). There are, however, core schemas that include within them many of these less broad schemas. For example: If you were abused, you did not matter; only the perpetrator’s needs mattered. If you were abandoned, you did not matter. As previously discussed, the I don’t matter cognition will process all of these narrow negative schemas. The less robust schemas are not transformative but are still healing.

Using the core schemas during dual awareness stimulation processes the less robust schemas in a powerfully transformative manner. The core schemas give rise to judgments, inferences, and attributions that are consistently biased in an erroneous manner (i.e., they will cause cognitive distortions). For instance, one who endorses a mistrust/abuse schema and believes that others are likely to be hostile is at risk of interpreting an ambiguous interaction as reflecting an aggressive intent (Crick and Dodge, 1994, 1996; Dodge, 1993; Dodge and Schwartz, 1997), and, consequently, will act in accordance with this misperception. For example, those who have the transformational negative cognition of “I don’t matter” will surround themselves with people who will perpetuate that reality, reinforcing the perception that the client has no value.

The schema or template is a fixed static aspect of the client’s psychological makeup that prevents change, much like the characteristics of a traumatic event, which are stored maladaptively in the implicit memory system in static unconscious fragments waiting to be triggered.

A Jungian perspective of the reality of the maladaptive schema is described by Edward Edinger as follows, “The person is sure of their rightness. For transformation to proceed these fixed aspects must first be dissolved into the prima materia (the original state). This is done through the analytic process which examines these aspects of the unconscious.” (Edinger, 1985).

EMDR therapy accelerates exactly what Edinger describes. EMDR therapy takes the client back to the original traumatic materials (the touchstone) that are fixed, linking the unconscious and hidden implicit memory fragments (The Jungian Shadow) to adaptive thoughts, feelings and perceptions. EMDR therapy exposes what is hidden and integrates new information to the fixed static aspect, thus adding new adaptive thoughts, feelings, and images, thus freeing the client from this fixed static state, where change and healing were impossible.

Stage four occurs after this dismantling of the primary schema represented by the transformational negative cognition, like “I don’t matter” or “I’m not good enough,” causes a loss of identity. A state of confusion occurs for the clients. They have new insight and cannot behave from the old perspective, but they have no idea how to behave from the adaptive perspective. C.G. Jung was aware of this process and offers sound guidance for stage four, the loss of identity/chaos and confusion. He states, “Chaos and confusion are necessary ingredients for all psychological transformation” (C. G. Jung, 2012). “It is chaos, the massa confuse that is likened to the creation of the new world. This process means illumination, the broadening of consciousness that goes hand in hand with the ‘work’. Expressed psychologically this would signify the newly risen world of consciousness” (Jung, 1963).

Shapiro warns about problems that can occur in relationships as the old schema fades and this new perspective starts to manifest (Shapiro, 2003, 2018). There is scant discussion, training or guidance for the therapist or the client to manage the fallout from such sudden and dramatic change. Family dynamics tell us three possible outcomes occur when a member of a family system changes.

  1. The family will reject the person who is changing.
  2. The family will try to sabotage the change.
  3. The family will accept the person if they revert back to their old role.

This six-stage map provides the client reassurance that the uneasiness about this change is temporary and the struggle will lead to fulfillment and acceptance (Dobo, 2015).

There is a need for specific behavioral strategies, assertive training and “present” focus targeting as relationships are impacted as the new adaptive schema begins to assimilate (Beach, S.R.H., et al., 2006).

The fifth stage is the emergence of the new schema, the new transformation that is represented by the new adaptive positive cognition, which begins to manifest itself in behaviors, thinking, and perceptions and is even represented in the client’s dreams. The client is “childlike,” seeing the world from the authentic self for the first time and unsure about how to navigate the world from this new perspective (Edinger, 1985; Rajski, P., 2002; Willock, B., 2017).

The sixth stage is the assimilation of the new view. The acceptance of the new adaptive cognition and schema with little or no evidence of the presence of the former maladaptive.

To review:

  1. Avoidance – They wait until they cannot stand their state of mind and have tried just about everything else.
  2. Surrender – EMDR therapist is the “what have I got to lose” person because they have tried everything else and none of it worked. Also, EMDR therapy requires the client to surrender to the process and let whatever needs to happen to happen. Otherwise it won’t work. Surrender is required.
  3. Dismantling the old way — “I don’t matter” or “I’m not good enough” shifts to “I am good enough” or “I do matter.” This takes time. It does not happen in one session.
  4. Chaos and confusion – The client does not know how to engage the world or others from an “I matter” or “I’m good enough” perspective. Fear, anxiety and confusion can set in. They also have insight and cannot go back, much like our upset business owner and the followers of Jesus after his death. Loss of identity is a very real experience.
  5. Renewal – They behave like they matter in a small way, like sending a meal back because it’s cold. Something they may have never done before.
  6. Assimilation – After a few successes, the adaptive behavior becomes self-reinforcing, and they continue engaging the world from the new adaptive perspective.



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