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Overcoming Obstacles in EMDR Therapy: A Guide for Therapists

Updated: Apr 21

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a powerful tool for processing traumatic experiences and promoting healing. However, therapists may encounter challenges such as blocking, looping, and resistance during the EMDR process. In this blog post, we'll explore strategies for therapists to effectively address these obstacles and facilitate successful trauma processing.

Overcoming Obstacles in EMDR Therapy
EMDR Therapy

Recognizing Blocking:

Blocking occurs when clients struggle to access or process traumatic memories during EMDR therapy. Signs of blocking include resistance, avoidance, or a lack of emotional engagement.

EMDR Tools and Techniques for Addressing Blocking:

  • Psychoeducation: Educate clients about blocking and reassure them that it's a common response during trauma processing.

  • Resourcing: Strengthen internal and external resources to help clients feel grounded and supported.

  • Somatic Interventions: Incorporate grounding exercises or mindfulness to regulate arousal levels and facilitate trauma processing.

Addressing Looping in EMDR Therapy:

Looping refers to when clients become stuck or "looped" in a particular phase of the EMDR protocol without progressing.

Tools and Techniques for Addressing Looping:

  • Dual Attention Stimuli: Adjust bilateral stimulation to optimize processing and prevent looping.

  • Cognitive Interweaves: Introduce cognitive interweaves to guide clients' attention towards new insights related to the trauma.

  • Phase Shift: Temporarily shift focus away from the traumatic memory to another phase of the EMDR protocol before returning to trauma processing.

Overcoming Resistance in EMDR Therapy:

Resistance may arise as a defense mechanism to protect clients from overwhelming emotions or memories associated with trauma.

Tools and Techniques for Overcoming Resistance:

  • Collaborative Exploration: Engage in dialogue to explore underlying reasons for resistance and validate clients' experiences and concerns.

  • Parts Work: Apply Internal Family Systems (IFS) or other parts-oriented approaches to identify and address internal conflicts contributing to resistance.

  • Ego Strengthening: Utilize techniques to bolster clients' sense of self-efficacy, coping skills, and resilience.

Utilizing EMDR's Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) Model:

Ground interventions in the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model, emphasizing the brain's innate capacity to process and integrate traumatic experiences.

EMDR Resources:

By employing these tools, techniques, and resources, therapists can effectively address obstacles encountered during EMDR therapy, facilitating trauma processing and promoting healing and integration.

With love, AGLOW

Stacy Ruse, LPC

Stacy Ruse, LPC, is an esteemed Evergreen EMDR consultant, IFS-Institute consultant, and founder of Aglow Counseling. Stacy teaches a therapeutic style that is characterized by the art of EMDR & IFS therapies with a transpersonal twist, transcending the conventional boundaries of traditional therapy. Her holistic approach acknowledges the interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit allowing individuals to tap into their innate resilience and ignite their personal transformation journey. As a trauma expert, national and international trainer, and clinical consultant, Stacy's approach is deeply rooted in trauma-informed methodologies.


AGLOW is a global hub for therapists and the world. Led by trauma expert Stacy Ruse, LPC, providing training, consultation, and counseling services. Specializing in an integrative approach using EMDR, IFS, Somatic & Transpersonal therapies to inspire therapists and individuals alike.


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