Recapping the EMDR International Association 2023 Conference in Washington, DC
Last week, I had the privilege of attending the annual EMDR International Association (EMDRIA) conference in the historic city of Washington, DC. Technically, we were in Crystal City, VA which is located right over the border from DC, but who’s counting? For those unfamiliar, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a comprehensive psychotherapy approach designed to resolve psychological issues by targeting the unresolved traumatic events that cause them.
Due to the pandemic, the last couple of conferences have been virtual only, so it was super exciting to attend in person since the last one I attended in Anaheim in 2019. This year’s gathering was nothing short of enlightening, bringing together professionals, researchers, and enthusiasts from across the globe to discuss the latest advancements and insights in the field.
Here are some highlights:
The Setting: Washington, DC (well, technically it was in Crystal City, VA…)
Held at the elegant Hyatt Regency in the backdrop of our nation’s capital added a sense of gravitas and historical importance to our discussions. Between sessions, attendees were seen exploring the monuments, museums, and eateries that make DC a tourist’s delight. As someone who grew up in the DC suburbs, I was able to make arrangements to see family and visit some great places such as the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, while having dim sum in Chinatown.
One of the standout elements of the conference was the lineup of keynote speakers:
Deany Laliotis, LICSW. An established name in the EMDR world as a pioneer and master trainer, she painted a picture of where EMDR has come since the 1980s when it was stumbled upon, and where it is headed in the future. She also discussed the importance of addressing attachment wounds using EMDR to heal developmental trauma and neglect.
Ruth Lanius, MD, PhD. Dr. Lanius focused on the brain and proposed a variety of likely neurological mechanisms that lend EMDR to be effective in reprocessing traumatic memory.
Workshops & Breakout Sessions
Numerous workshops were provided by leaders in the field of trauma therapy and EMDR, ranging from mastering new techniques and advanced protocols to conceptualizing complex trauma cases. Here are descriptions of some of the workshops I chose to attend (although I wish I could have attended all of them!):
Primary Prevention: Utilizing EMDR During Pregnancy by Dr. Mara Stein, PsyD, PMC-C which took a look at the myth that EMDR is a risk to do while pregnant, and presented the research on why it’s actually a risk to leave trauma unresolved instead
Engaging Teen’s Protective Parts to Reprocess Traumatic Memories by Annie Monaco, LCSW, RPT, and Erin Hassall, LMFT, RPT-S which discussed working with challenging cases of complex trauma and neglect with teens
Using the DNMS to Prepare Attachment-Wounded Clients for EMDR by Shirley Jean Schmidt, LPC which provided instruction on using her innovative Developmental Needs Meeting Strategy to create inner healing resources to address attachment wounds and related instability
The I-Gaze Interweave for Attachment Repair in EMDR Therapy with Barry Litt.
It was invigorating to connect with fellow EMDR practitioners from various countries and backgrounds. And I ran into numerous colleagues from the South Florida and Central Florida areas! These exchanges not only fostered professional connections but also provided a platform to share our work, discuss challenges, and explore collaborative opportunities.
The EMDR International Association 2023 conference was a resounding success, marking another year of collective growth, learning, and collaboration for the EMDR community. As I left Washington, DC, I felt excitement and a renewed sense of purpose, passion, and commitment to transforming lives through EMDR. I’m already looking forward to next year’s gathering in April in Bellevue, WA, and can’t wait to see where the world of EMDR takes us.
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