Using EMDR with Complex PTSD. It may be less complicated than you think

Complex PTSD is a term used to denote a severe form of PTSD comprising symptom clusters reflecting difficulties in regulating emotions, disturbances in relational capacities, alterations in attention and consciousness, adversely affected belief systems, and somatization. Currently, there is debate about the treatment of Complex PTSD. On the one hand, there are treatment guidelines recommending that adults with symptoms of Complex PTSD require a phase-based approach for positive treatment outcomes, meaning that trauma-focused treatment of those suffering from Complex PTSD should be preceded by a stabilization phase aimed at reducing self-regulatory problems, and improving emotional, social, and psychological competencies. Conversely, there is mounting evidence from research showing that the general recommendation of trauma-focused treatments as first-line interventions for PTSD is also valid for those suffering from Complex PTSD.

Clearly, from a clinical point of view, there are a number of challenges when treating patients with Complex PTSD, including the fact that many of them are afraid of a confrontation with their emotions, the occurrence of severe abreactions, or dissociation that limits access to the trauma memories during the sessions, SUD levels that do not decline, and cognitive distortions, for instance about guilt, that do not shift.

The goal of this workshop is to provide an overview about (1) what we now know about Complex PTSD, (2) current controversies, a (3) variety of evidence based, trauma-focused treatment strategies for complex patients using EMDR, (4) the difficulties that are associated with this treatment, and (4) helpful techniques to deal with these problems. This presentation will be illustrated by many video segments of treatment sessions using EMDR with a wide range of patients with Complex PTSD.


  1. Learning objectives

– Making use of state of the art knowledge about Complex PTSD

– Being capable of using evidence based, trauma-focused treatment strategies for complex patients using EMDR

– Being able to deal with abreactions, blocking and dissociation in Complex PTSD patients


  1. About the presenter

Ad de Jongh, Ph.D. is clinical psychologist and professor of Anxiety and Behavior Disorders at the University of Amsterdam. Further, he is honorary professor in psychology at the School of Health Sciences of Salford University in Manchester, and at the Institute of Health and Society of the University of Worcester, both in the United Kingdom. In 2015 Ad de Jongh was involved in establishing the Psychotrauma Expertise Center (PSYTREC), a mental health institution in Bilthoven that uses a short, and highly intensive treatment program for Complex PTSD, where he is a member of the board of directors. He is approved trainer for the EMDR Europe association, board member of the Dutch EMDR Association (VEN), and the EMDR Europe Association. He is an expert in the treatment of anxiety disorders, and involved in research on the efficacy of evidence-based treatments for a wide variety of patient groups, including traumatized children, people with intellectual disabilities and other complex psychiatric conditions, including psychosis. He (co-)authored more than 300 scientific articles/book chapters and 6 books on his areas of expertise.


  1. Relevant literature
  • De Jongh, A., Resick, P.A., Zoellner, L.A, van Minnen, A., Lee, C.W., Monson, C.M., Foa, E.B., Wheeler, K., Ten Broeke, E., Feeny, N., Rauch, S.A.M., Chard, K., Mueser, K.T., Sloan, D.M., van der Gaag, M., Rothbaum, B.O., Neuner, F., De Roos, C., Hehenkamp, L.M.J., Rosner, R, Bicanic, I.A.E. (2016). A critical analysis of the current treatment guidelines for complex PTSD in adults. Depression and Anxiety, 33, 59–369. DOI 10.1002/da.22469
  • Bongaerts, H., Van Minnen, De Jongh, A. (in press). Intensive EMDR to treat PTSD patients with severe comorbidity: A case series. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research.