Woman on a Zoom call with Deany Laliotis, Mary French and Erika Tsoukanelis

What Can I Expect in EMDR Basic Training?

Are you ready for a game-changing experience? Then EMDR Basic Training at The Center is for you.

Deany Laliotis, LICSW, Founder of The Center

Your Essential Guide to EMDR Basic Training

Lasting change can take place in an hour.


For most clinicians in this profession, their paradigm of what constitutes change will be challenged by the EMDR model of psychotherapy.

For example, a CBT therapist thinks about the mechanisms of action and the agents of change, as the therapist who offers alternative ways of thinking and behaving to help clients with their problems. Of course, that works, but it can take time.  And for most of us, it frequently does take time.


With EMDR therapy, we reprocess how memories are encoded in our brains.

That happens very quickly.


Clinicians are frequently in disbelief that they and their clients can experience lasting change in an hour’s session.


It doesn’t change what happened to the person in their lives, but it does change their lived experience.  That means that not only is it no longer disturbing, but they’re also not confused by their role in the experience.  For example, a client who was abused as a child believes that it is their fault, as most children do.  As an adult, they continue to react that way in current situations regardless of what’s happening, which is a painful way to live in the world of relationships.


For the clinician, there can be a cognitive dissonance between the therapeutic orientation they bring to this training and what we teach. It’s a journey. For those of us who teach the Basic Training, we let the clinicians know that it’s a personal and professional journey.  For many others, they’ve either already heard about EMDR training from a colleague or have experienced it as a client and know what it’s about first-hand.


EMDR training is structured so our trainees can learn how to apply this way of working with their clients by experiencing it themselves in the training. We ask them to come prepared to work on their own experiences that have hurt them. We all have these life experiences, of course, so it’s normalizing for the clinician to work on something that bothers them and get to the other side.


Therapists can experience first-hand not only the changes that are possible in this way of working; they can experience first-hand what they’re asking of their clients. They’re asking their clients to “go there,” to those painful places. It’s like taking the infection out of a wound -  we create the conditions for our client’s system to do now what it couldn’t do before so the wound can heal once and for all.


And that’s a process.


Adaptive Information Processing

In EMDR Training, therapists learn the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model, which is the theoretical foundation of EMDR therapy.  Every psychotherapy orientation has a theory that explains how we understand human problems and how those problems are resolved. Through the AIP lens, the past is present for better and worse because our brain is associative. We learn by putting bits and pieces of information together to make sense of our experience and assign meaning to it for future reference.


When that association is adaptive, it helps us not only adapt, but it helps us thrive and do well in the world. But when childhood perceptions distort that association or because it was too overwhelming to process it at the time, the memory remains unresolved, disturbing, if not traumatic.  These inadequately processed experiences can get triggered in the present when a person finds themselves in a similar situation in one or more ways, causing us to react in ways that are not adaptive to us.


Our brain is hijacked into overreacting when triggered because the past becomes present.

So, for example, if you were walking out on a clear, beautiful summer evening, and out of nowhere you were robbed at gunpoint, from that point on, your association with the nighttime is going to be contaminated. Your brain is likely to make the connection that nighttime is dangerous since something dangerous happened to you at night. One could argue that the same thing could happen in the daytime, too. But our brain makes that connection, and now that person will avoid going out at night because it’s too scary. Suddenly, their life just got smaller, which happens when disturbing experiences remain unresolved.

 So, when we can reprocess that experience, we no longer make that connection. The night can just be about nighttime. The client who has reprocessed this experience can choose if they want to go out at night based on their own sensibilities, rather than being fearful of getting robbed. 


A very rich, highly interactive training experience

Over a six-month period, in The Center’s EMDR Basic Training, our trainees are going to be exposed to:

·   Several different clients and clinical problems

·   Video segments of actual clinical sessions so they can see how EMDR works

·   How to set up a memory for reprocessing

·   How to ensure that the client has a more adaptive way of thinking, feeling, and responding to similar situations in the future.


We teach our trainees how to help their clients grow and change beyond symptom relief.


Of course, in addition to learning how to understand a client’s present-day difficulties through unresolved past experiences, you will learn how to facilitate a reprocessing of memory through:

·   Lecture

·   Discussion

·   Ample time for questions

·   Video segments

·   Small group role plays where we go through various clinical scenarios to help our trainees get the hang of it. Whether it’s trying to understand what that past-present connection might be with a particular client presentation, how to set up a memory for reprocessing, or how to navigate the reprocessing itself


We have small breakout groups of 9-10 for discussions and role play, and smaller groups of 3 people where trainees take turns in roles as therapist, client, and observer.


We also include 10.5 hours of case consultation to help clinicians apply what they’re learning at no additional cost.  In every training segment, we set aside time for each trainee to present a case or to ask questions.  In Part One, we help them identify a client who is a good candidate for EMDR therapy based on their level of training to help them get started and ensure that both client and clinician will have a good experience with the transition.


We encourage our trainees to apply what they’re learning immediately after the first training weekend so they can build on their skills because part of how we learn is through practice. We encourage our clinicians not to worry about making mistakes since they’re new at this and because they have our support every step of the way. That’s also how we get better at our craft.


A shift for clinicians

In EMDR Basic training, therapists will learn how to work more experientially as this model works with present-day experience.  The therapist will be invited to track the nonverbal as well as what the client is reporting, moment-to-moment, and working with the nonverbal exchange of information, rather than only the cognitive information.


During reprocessing sessions, the client just notices and tracks their experience and is invited to describe what is happening between sets of bilateral stimulation. Even when few words are spoken, our systems know when we’re going through something with a kind and empathic other, allowing our clients to approach what has previously been experienced as unapproachable.


Therapists learn how to be in these reprocessing sessions, not just what to do.  So, the therapist’s system becomes a resource for the client as that interpersonal neurobiology kicks in.  As Dan Siegel states, “Neurons that fire together wire together.”


A profound appreciation of the client’s lived experience in the moment

Another thing therapists learn to appreciate is a movement towards the client’s lived experience in the moment, instead of our clients reporting to us about their life experiences retrospectively, which is typically how psychotherapy is conducted. The added question as an EMDR therapist after describing what happened, is, “What are you noticing now in this moment as you’re telling me about it?” 


What we’re interested in isn’t what happened, but what keeps happening that negatively impacts the client’s experience in their present-day lives.


We help our clients live fuller, more satisfying lives in the present, unencumbered by the painful experiences of the past. Those experiences can be truly healing if not transformative, giving our clients greater capacity to be fully present in what’s here now and what is possible in the future.


Clinicians will walk away from EMDR Training with a robust model that offers a three-pronged approach of helping our clients with present-day difficulties, identifying and reprocessing past experiences that are informing those current difficulties, ensuring that our clients have a healthier, more adaptative way of thinking and feeling and responding to similar situations in the future. We ensure our clients can step into what’s possible for them going forward.A model of human resilience

EMDR therapy is a model of human resilience. Inherent in this model is a profound appreciation for the human system, which is inherently designed to move toward health, given the opportunity to do so. It’s a model of health and resiliency, not just pathology.


A major benefit is that EMDR Basic Training allows therapists to do some personal work, which can only enhance our ability to deliver quality services and bring our best selves to our work with their clients.  Trust me, I know first-hand.


Find out about our Basic Training by clicking here.