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Book Review: EMDR Therapy & Somatic Psychology

Many therapists and trainees will be familiar with the terms “somatic psychology” and “EMDR therapy,” and there have been many authors who have tried to write a book that encapsulates both of these topics succinctly, but in my opinion, none have succeeded in quite the same way as Arielle Schwartz and Barb Maiberger with their new book, EMDR Therapy and Somatic Psychology: Interventions to Enhance Embodiment in Trauma Treatment.

EMDR Therapy and Somatic Psychology is a wonderful resource for both therapists-in-training and practicing therapists. The first part of the book is devoted to providing foundational knowledge about Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy and somatic psychology. For therapists-in-training, this first part will provide the introduction and knowledge base they may need to determine if these practices resonate for them.

Schwartz and Maiberger cover both EMDR and somatic psychology in depth, then provide a clear understanding of how they are interconnected. The authors explain, “EMDR therapy and somatic psychology are both grounded in a biopsychosocial model of care which understands that a client’s symptoms arise from the interaction of biochemical, psychological, social and cultural factors.”

For those currently in practice, this text provides an in-depth look at theories which therapists may be marginally familiar with but are not currently utilizing in their practice. Perhaps for other therapists, it is a refresher course for the foundations of somatic psychology and EMDR therapy. Some of the foundational concepts described include the “Seven Principles of EMDR Therapy and Somatic Psychology for Trauma Treatment” and the “Science of Embodiment.”

Schwartz and Maiberger’s book will provide therapists and trainees with practical applications of EMDR Therapy and Somatic Psychology. The second part of the book is devoted to describing various interventions and is broken into specific sections:

  • Interventions to Enhance Embodiment in Trauma Treatment
  • Complex PTSD and Attachment Trauma
  • Chronic Pain and Illness

For instance, the authors describe using breathing exercises for clients dealing with anxiety and those struggling with depression, because “a client with high anxiety often has short and shallow breath patterns.” The authors then provide a description of the “Calming breath” activity for anxious patients. A description is also provided for the “Energizing Breath” intervention for clients struggling with depression.

Each intervention described within the pages includes notes to the practitioner. The notes provide further information to consider throughout the intervention. An example from the “Energizing Breath” intervention is:

Note: DO not do more than three quick breaths initially because the client could become light-headed. Ideally, clients should feel some activation of their nervous system. This is meant to wake them up. Depending on the client you may need only one activating breath, or you may need to add more breaths to optimize this practice.

For some interventions, the notes are more detailed and/or more frequent.

Schwartz and Maiberger have also included a chapter about cultural context. They cover the cultural competencies necessary in psychotherapy to meet the needs of an “increasingly diverse demographics of clients seeking out psychological services.” They have included a tools for therapists that help them practice using cultural context and culturally sensitive history-taking. With the growing push for cultural context and understanding in psychotherapy, this chapter provides tools and insight into a culturally well-rounded somatic psychology and EMDR therapy practice.

One of the brightest points of the book is the final chapter: “Tools for Therapist Self-Care.” Considering the emotional and mental weight therapists can experience after sessions with clients, “EMDR therapists need to have sufficient support to process the mental, emotional, and physical weight of the traumatic material shared by clients.” The authors discuss stress, compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, secondary trauma, and burnout, all part of the burnout continuum. Further, they describe the signs and symptoms of the burnout continuum. Also provided are embodiment practices for before, during, and after sessions. The authors conclude with a note that regular commitment to self-care helps therapists remain a “valuable resource.”

It is clear that Schwartz and Maiberger collectively carry a vast amount of experience as trainers, authors and therapists. Their combined knowledge carries a dense weight; however, their writing skills create a load that is easily carried regardless of where the reader may be in their training. The authors clearly understand which concepts require further explanation and which would be so fundamental and basic that even trainees would not require a further explanation beyond a sentence or two. The fluidity of the writing style allows for the research-saturated work to be accessible for a variety of readers. From training rooms to private practice, EMDR Therapy and Somatic Psychology is recommended text for any therapists or trainees interested in these areas.

EMDR Therapy and Somatic Psychology: Interventions to Enhance Embodiment in Trauma Treatment

W. W. Norton & Company, August 2018

Hardcover, 304 pages

Book Review: EMDR Therapy & Somatic Psychology

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Caroline Comeaux Lee

APA Reference
Comeaux Lee, C. (2019). Book Review: EMDR Therapy & Somatic Psychology. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 9 Feb 2019
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 9 Feb 2019
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