A personal view of the EMDR UK conference 2023
I found the EMDR UK conference interesting, engaging and enjoyable for many different reasons, the agenda itself was excellent and meeting so many different people with a shared passion for EMDR was valuable to me as a clinician in private practice.
Rebecca Kase’s presentation and workshop on polyvagal theory, an area I did not have any prior knowledge in, was amazing. The fact she presented with such passion and enthusiasm made the content easy to understand and engage with. I found her vulnerability when talking about her personal experiences with EMDR to be courageous and inspiring. Speaking to her point around doing our own work as therapists, so we have a calm nervous system when working with our clients, resonated with me greatly. Among other valuable tools, she spoke about basic strategies that can be implemented to get into a ventral vagal or calm state, one of which was humming. Doing this exercise as a group meant we were able to experience the power of such a basic action.
Coming out of Rebecca’s workshop I thought it would be the peak of the conference due to the value she delivered. However, I was wrong! Naomi Fisher and Caroline van Diest followed with a presentation and workshop on EMDR and autism. Not only were they a hilarious duo, who captivated the whole audience, but they delivered invaluable content that can immediately be applied in clinical practice. Their ‘EMDR autism toolbox’ has made me much more confident in working with clients who have a diagnosis of autism. As they pointed out, I also have clients I am currently working with who do not have a diagnosis of autism but who are likely neurodivergent or suspect they have autism, and I have come away with some great ideas that will complement their treatment programme. One of the most helpful tools was being creative with bilateral stimulation if needed, for example tapping a soft toy with children or having parents just tap lightly on their shoulders. It was helpful to be reminded that we can get stuck on getting things ‘right’ with the protocol and this can interfere with being able to achieve good processing with a bit of adaptation. What made the workshop an even richer learning experience was Naomi and Caroline showing videos of real client sessions to demonstrate some of their strategies in action and to highlight their own ‘fails’ in a humorous manner, normalising making mistakes and getting things ‘wrong’ during the therapy process.
Finally, I was already eagerly anticipating Michael and Bridget’s workshop on working with challenging ego states, another new topic to me, and it did not disappoint. I found the participatory exercise demonstrating how to create a ‘home base’ with clients to be a powerful and valuable tool. Again, videos of client work and a client talking about her own experiences of EMDR enriched the learning experience. Michael and Bridget delivered a great deal of value in the time they had that left me feeling confident in beginning to practice the strategies with current and future clients, as well as a desire to do more research into and training in ego states/parts work.
It would be too difficult for me to pick a favourite part of the conference because of how enjoyable every part of it was, but what really struck me was how all the presenters delivered with such authenticity, which made for an engaging experience throughout. I have learnt more than I could have imagined in the two days, and I came away with even more passion for EMDR and a renewed energy to continue to learn and develop to give my clients the best experience and outcomes in treatment.
I should mention how fulfilling it was to spend time with colleagues who are equally as passionate about EMDR. I put faces to names and made new connections and friends which was an unforgettable and valuable experience.