Person walking in front of a crossroad with road is split in three different ways as arrows

A Fork in the Road

Maria Masciandaro, Psy.D, Center Faculty and EMDRIA-Approved Consultant

How can you help a client who has gone through a recent trauma?  

Are you wondering “What can I do right now to offer relief and stability to my client?” 

Do we continue with the same path outlined in our treatment plan? Or do we deviate to address the new issue? 


After a brief vacation, a client of mine comes in and says, "You'll never guess what happened ...." and by their body language you know it's not good.  


What do you do? Let them continue? Stop and redirect and, if so, how? 


Before I knew about the Recent Traumatic Episode Protocol (R-TEP), my answers would have been different than they are now.  


With so many people in the world experiencing natural and human-made disasters, community devastation and interpersonal violence, there is a critical need for early EMDR intervention following traumatic incidents.  


In 2008, EMDR R-TEP (Recent Traumatic Episode Protocol) was developed by Elan Shapiro and Brurit Laub to meet that need. This protocol is now used in disaster areas around the world for ongoing traumatic stress and for recent traumatic events large and small. 


The RTEP protocol is a powerful addition to every EMDR therapist's repertoire 

R-TEP is not only for headline-level disasters. R-TEP is specifically designed to meet the unique needs arising from recent traumatic events—which differ from those processing past traumas.  


R-TEP expands a therapist’s ability to respond to clients blindsided by a recent trauma or caught in an overwhelming event as it unfolds in real time.  


R-TEP, used before the traumatic memory continues to strengthen, can reduce connections to past traumas and prevent traumatic memories from accumulating. R-TEP is also shown to enhance adaptive associations, resilience, and other measures of 'post-traumatic growth.'  


Why do EMDR therapists need to learn R-TEP?  

This advanced EMDR specialty training in early EMDR intervention presents a protocol designed to help stabilize clients in the face of traumatic stress and to process the trauma before it continues to exist and strengthen as a maladaptive memory.   


R-TEP lets the therapist titrate the client's experience with an emphasis on safety and containment to minimize the risk of further destabilization. You can help clients respond adaptively to their difficult situation, especially those that can be ongoing. And with R-TEP you have a clinical roadmap for helping them move through recent traumatic events based on their capacities and circumstances. 


How RTEP is Structured 

The structure of the R-TEP allows the client to define the parameters, pointing out what is salient to the issue at hand. It acknowledges the client's story, setting boundaries around the processing.  


The client allows their own brain to decide what, and in what order, things need to be processed. Each piece is treated as a separate focus called a point of disturbance, or PoD.  


Since our brain is constantly working, especially on material disturbing to us, we follow the client's lead to determine which PoD is the focus. Due to the overwhelming nature of the issue, we use dual bilateral - eye movements and something kinesthetic to ensure grounding in the present.  


Much of the protocol follows the standard EMDR protocol's 8 phases, just with the sensitivity the situation demands. 


R-TEP is part of the TEP suite, the Traumatic Episode Processing protocols. Others are G-TEP (Group Traumatic Episode Protocol ) and GREP (Group Resource Enhancement Protocol). More information is coming soon on these additional protocols. 


How can I learn this protocol? 

I will be teaching a class on R-TEP where you can discover why this first protocol is a valuable addition to an EMDR therapist’s toolbox. Please join me and my colleague Mary Ray on June 7, 2024, for a presentation of the R-TEP. Sign up here


It has been rewarding to hear from clinicians how effective this protocol is. Following the client's lead with a focus on containment and stability is very effective with clients who are dealing with recent traumatic episodes. 



For a list of studies, articles and presentations using the R-TEP protocol go to where you can find a bibliography