Integrated EMDR For Child Abuse – Part 3

by / Sunday, 26 February 2017 / Published in The Integrated EMDR Series


Integrated EMDR For Child Abuse – Part 3 

By Jeff Dwarshuis LMSW ACSW

This is the third article in a three part series on the use of EMDR for child abuse. Part One and Part Two of this series explained the patterns of Ambivalent Attachment and The Locus of Control Shift and how the EMDR technique of the Cognitive Interweave specifically targets the thoughts, feelings and self beliefs that hold these negative patterns in place.

Part Three of the series explains how The Cognitive Interweave is used in an EMDR therapy session and how it directly challenges the negative thinking found in Ambivalent Attachment and The Locus of Control Shift. The Cognitive Interweave has three parts – Responsibility, Safety and Choices.


People abused as children often hold negative self beliefs in an effort to avoid the feelings of loss associated with child abuse. This thinking causes the person to believe they are responsible for the abuse. The first part of the Cognitive Interweave is to help the client reprocess the abusive memory while rationally exploring the idea of responsibility.

After the client begins EMDR and moves through 2-3 sets of eye movements on a targeted memory, they are usually in touch with the negativity of the memory. At this point the client can be asked “As you see this picture, who is responsible for the negative emotions you feel right now?” Often clients will blame themselves so the therapist should then ask – “As a child on that day did you want to experience this situation?” The client is then able to identify the responsibility of the perpetrator. Then 2-6 sets of eye movements are completed while concentrating on the responsibility of the perpetrator for creating the problem. This recognition lifts the sense of responsibility and then allows the client to eliminate or give up their longstanding negative self perception and control that is found in the Locus of Control Shift. Between the sets of eye movements following the client often will then begin to express their rational emotional reaction of anger rather than the anxiety, guilt, or fear that comes with accepting irrational blame. Clients also will be confronted with a strong sense of loss that they have been avoiding since the initial traumatic event.


The second step of the Cognitive Interweave is Safety and this step helps the client to deal with feelings of loss and fear. At this point in the session the therapist can say to the client – “See a picture of yourself walking out of your Safe Place (See article “Integrated EMDR – Starting with Safety”) and imagine that you go into that negative picture and talk to that young child as if she is your own daughter and you help her to feel safe.” The client does 2-5 sets of eye movements on this picture. Generally after 2-5 sets of eye movements the client experiences comfort, safety, validation, love and bonding that overtakes the sense of abandonment, fear, loneliness and discomfort that maintains the relational pattern of Ambivalent Attachment. The person has experienced for the first time being able to hold and believe these positive things while thinking about the bad memory.


The third step of the Cognitive Interweave is Choices and this step helps the client deal with rational power and emotional separation. After safety is completed the therapist says to the client – “Recognizing the responsibility of the perpetrator and having that safety with you imagine that the young girl in that negative picture makes choices for what to do with that situation and she can do anything she wants.” This method is a new and significant experience for the client since they are for the first time able to rationally process their power over the situation while feeling safe and recognizing the perpetrator’s responsibility. Often clients will report imagining finding a place of safety, calling authorities or going through the aggressive response of fighting against the perpetrator and winning.

The use of the Cognitive Interweave is a highly effective EMDR technique that allows clients to maintain a cognitive and emotional distance from the negative impacts of abuse that have caused symptoms, relational hardship and self harm and creates an ability to eliminate symptoms and rationally perceive the management of a satisfying and joyful relationship.


Jeff Dwarshuis LMSW, ACSW is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice specializing in EMDR therapy. For contact call (616) 443-1425 or send an email to



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