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Dissociation in Therapy: An Interview with Jamie Marich

An interview with Dr. Jamie Marich on how to navigate through dissociation in the therapy room. Curt and Katie interview Jamie about her own experiences with dissociation and what she does to cope as a dissociative professional. We discuss the importance of mindfulness and other strategies to take care of ourselves as well as treating dissociative clients. We also chat about how to navigate professional organizations as someone who likes to challenge the status quo.

It’s time to reimagine therapy and what it means to be a therapist. We are human beings who can now present ourselves as whole people, with authenticity, purpose, and connection. Especially now, when therapists must develop a personal brand to market their practices.

To support you as a whole person and a therapist, your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy talk about how to approach the role of therapist in the modern age.


Click here to scroll to the podcast transcript.

An Interview with Jamie Marich, Ph.D., LPCC-S, LICDC-CS, REAT, RYT-200, RMT

Jamie Marich, Ph.D., LPCC-S, LICDC-CS, REAT, RYT-200, RMT - headshotJamie Marich, Ph.D., LPCC-S, LICDC-CS, REAT, RYT-200, RMT travels internationally speaking on topics related to EMDR therapy, trauma, addiction, expressive arts and mindfulness while maintaining a private practice in her home base of Warren, OH. She is the developer of the Dancing Mindfulness practice to expressive arts therapy and co-creator of the Yoga Unchained approach to trauma-informed yoga.  Jamie is the author of seven books, including the popular EMDR Made Simple and EMDR Therapy and Mindfulness for Trauma Focused Care (Springer Publishing in 2018), written in collaboration with Dr. Stephen Dansiger. Her newest title, Process Not Perfection: Expressive Arts Solutions for Trauma Recovery, released in April 2019. North Atlantic Books is publishing a second and expanded edition of Trauma and the 12 Steps, due for release in the Summer of 2020.

In this episode we talk about dissociation in therapy:

  • Creative mindfulness
  • Joy in facilitating transformation

“I really think if I have to describe what defines all of the different work that I do…the one thread that really runs it all together is this passion I have for facilitating transformation.” – Jamie Marich

  • Jamie’s experience with trauma, addiction, dissociation, and how that led to her work
  • EMDR and “the weird stuff” that has led to improved outcomes
  • The power of embodied healing
  • Jamie coming out as being in recovery, bisexual, and struggling with dissociation
  • The response of other therapists to Jamie coming out as a dissociative professional
  • The importance of being candid to remain present and to combat the label of impaired therapist
  • Shame about dissociation and the difficulty therapists have in treating dissociation
  • How to navigate through dissociation as a therapist – we all dissociate, just at different degrees
  • The importance of mindfulness in combating dissociation
  • Rituals and routines to ground and return to the present
  • Learning the models for treatment and then “breaking the rules elegantly” to innovate

“As I’ve gotten more and more involved in EMDR…I talk about the basic protocol is like learning the chords on a piano, whereas actually demonstrating it is playing jazz. And so there’s a lot of just kind of having that foundational aspects of what you do, but it ultimately becomes how you do it that makes it work.” – Curt Widhalm

  • How institutes develop effectively and the struggles of bringing treatment to the mainstream
  • Jamie’s standing up and pushing away from the mainstream – and some of the consequences

“As long as the client is on a path that’s helping them to get what they define as their their kind of home goal. I think that’s the key. And a lot of the stuff we squabble about really is just details.” – Jamie Marich

  • Why Jamie and Curt love EMDR

Our Generous Sponsor for this episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide

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Resources for Modern Therapists mentioned in this Podcast Episode:

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Institute for Creative Mindfulness




Dr. Francine Shapiro

Relevant Episodes of MTSG Podcast:

Being Truly Mindful

Is CBT Crap?

Who we are:

Picture of Curt Widhalm, LMFT, co-host of the Modern Therapist's Survival Guide podcast; a nice young man with a glorious beard.Curt Widhalm, LMFT

Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University and CSUN, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, former CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making “dad jokes” and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at: http://www.curtwidhalm.com

Picture of Katie Vernoy, LMFT, co-host of the Modern Therapist's Survival Guide podcastKatie Vernoy, LMFT

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. Katie is also a former President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt’s youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at: http://www.katievernoy.com

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.

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Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide Creative Credits:

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Transcript for this episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide podcast (Autogenerated):

Curt Widhalm 0:00
This episode of The Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide is brought to you by GreenOak Accounting.

Katie Vernoy 0:04
If you love dreaming about growing your practice but you feel a disconnect between where you are now and where you want to be check out GreenOak Accounting. The team at GreenOak Accounting can translate your action plan into your profit and loss statement. If you’re behind on your books, ready to implement Profit First, or need someone on your financial team who really understands private practice and can help your business grow, schedule a free consultation by going to greenoakaccounting.com.

Curt Widhalm 0:30
Listen at the end of the episode for more information.

Announcer 0:33
You’re listening to The Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide where therapists live, breathe and practice as human beings. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, here are your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy.

Curt Widhalm 0:49
Welcome back modern therapists. This is The Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide. I’m Curt Widhalm with Katie Vernoy. And as always, thank you for being a listener and if you do us a favor wherever you are listening to us, if you wouldn’t mind leaving us a rating and review. It definitely helps us out. And I’m really excited to have today’s guest on. We always appreciate the firecrackers in the therapy profession, the people who are out there, shaking things up and not only beating to the tune of their own drum, but also just like dancing along to it too. And we are joined by Dr. Jamie Marich, who I’ve known through the EMDR world for a couple of years. And a part of the Institute for Creative mindfulness, of which Jamie is the Queen and everything else that goes along with that. But thank you very much for joining us, Jamie, we are super excited to be talking about everything that you’re bringing to the therapy world and challenging yourself to get better.

Jamie Marich 1:50
Oh, it’s my pleasure to be here. I love how you rock and roll it as well. So this conversation will be very exciting for me.

Katie Vernoy 1:59
So we ask everyone when we get started is Who are you and what are you putting out into the world?

Jamie Marich 2:05
So, well Curt refer to me as a queen. So for your Game of Thrones fans, I prefer the title Khaleesi. But I’ll just put that out there.

Katie Vernoy 2:13
I love it! I love it!

Jamie Marich 2:15
In any event? Yeah, it’s a great question. And I have my hat involved or my hand involved in a lot of different hats clinically and educationally. And as Curt said, I’m the founder of an organization called The Institute for Creative Mindfulness. And we are fundamentally a continuing education initiative that strives to offer transformative continuing education in both EMDR therapy other some other trauma focused therapies, which is also including expressive arts therapy, and Dancing Mindfulness as a part of that some trauma informed yoga as a part of that. And this whole thread of using principles of mindfulness as an educational device really drives us as an organization. I still am an actively practicing clinician, I am still involved in the arts. And it was interesting a few months ago, this phrase I facilitate transformative experiences came up. And I added that to my bio, because I really think if I have to describe what defines all of the different work that I do, I’m also a yoga teacher, Reiki Master, I do a lot weirder stuff than EMDR. Although EMDR some people said is weird, that the one thread that really runs it all together is this passion I have for facilitating transformation, because I’m so very glad that people were there to do it for me, and that others are still there to help me continue to transform my own experiences, to transform my pain into gold, as it were. And so it’s just my great pleasure to offer that for others. In addition to being a facilitator of transformative experiences myself, I also like to mentor others in that process. With the Institute for Creative mindfulness, we have a very active faculty network on both the EMDR and expressive art side, people we’ve brought in as consultants to work with our team and hope to continue to mentor into faculty role. Curt is one such individual who has started as a student with ICM and has been involved now as a facilitator and assistant. And I mean, to me, the mark of a good teacher is when you teach others how to teach as well, and mentor others how to pass that forward as well. Because my vision is not to go out and do all the classes, I would much rather have a group of people who can share a lot of these transformative practices in their own communities.

Katie Vernoy 2:16
Nice. I love that.

Curt Widhalm 2:46
And if you want to come on to our podcast and give me comments like Jamie, you can reach out to us on our social media. Now, having gotten to know Jamie over the last couple of years, I think that you in some ways, have a unique story that led you into becoming a therapist and you know there’s factors that a lot of other people share. But I think to kind of put today’s episode into context, I think it’s important to kind of know where Jamie is coming from and why she does the things that she does.

Jamie Marich 5:14
It’s a great question. I actually detested psychology when I was an undergraduate student. My degree is in history. and American Studies, which is a subset of the English department. Basically means I have a pop culture degree. Imagine that. It’s interesting, though, because I was just talking with a friend of mine from that program. And he went on to be a lawyer, I went on to do what I do. And we were both just saying how American Studies was such a good foundation for both of the fields that was just like a really good liberal arts degree. So I, I truly went to my undergraduate, just riddled with my own stuff, a lot of unhealed trauma that really came out to play. Once I got out of my parents house, my addiction really took off when I was an undergrad. And so when I graduated, I literally really had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. And I had a very, you know, kind of horrible addiction problem that developed which stemmed from a lifelong experience with dissociative issues, because that was always my MO for coping, really. So I ended up going to Bosnia in 2000, my family’s from Croatia, and that I have a lot of interest in that part of the world, there was a civil war there in the 1990s. And to make a very long story short, I went there to teach English. And I came back with a passion for social work and counseling. You cannot work in Bosnia, or any war torn area and not learn about trauma. And at the same time, I had the good fortune of being mentored by a good friend of mine. She has since passed away, and she started as my recovery sponsor, and who got me into my own healing as well over there, because she noticed how I was having meltdowns on my job. And would say things like, this isn’t just a tearful reaction, this seems connected to trauma. And when I continued to struggle with chemicals, even after moving there, I knew she was somebody that I could reach out to. So I entered into my own personal recovery, essentially working in a developing country. And I, she basically, when I had about a year sober, she just said, why don’t you go back to grad school for counseling, I think you’ll be good at it. And I gave her the old but I hated psychology, I don’t know what you mean. And she said something very profound that working in this environment as a teacher, for several years, taught me a lot of what I needed to know about the art of working with trauma. And she goes now go back and learn the science. And I did. And I went to graduate school. And it was it was very much a useful experience. Then I ended up when I was about two years sober and a year into graduate school. And I was starting my internship working with kids on a residential mental health unit, all of whom were survivors of trauma, I noticed that I was getting triggered significantly, and specifically, a lot of dissociative symptoms were emerging. And it made a lot of sense, because I had two years sober from drugs and alcohol at that point, that had become my dissociative device. Right.

Katie Vernoy 8:16

Jamie Marich 8:16
And then once that cleared up, a lot of the childhood dissociation that had been mounting and mounting and mounting from a very early age just really, really surfaced. And so I had a co worker who did an intervention on me and said, You are dissociating very badly on this job. And unless you get more help, you’re not going to last a minute in this field. And so I sought out a graduate professor of mine, because my thing was, yeah, I had no problem getting more counseling, but I didn’t understand how more counseling was going to help. Because I’d had a lot of CBT at that point, a lot of 12 Step knowledge at that point, I knew what I was supposed to be thinking. I knew what my thinking errors were. I knew what spiritual principles I ought to be applying and I was still stuck like nobody’s business. And so I got a card, basically what was said is here go see this provider in Boardman Ohio, she does all the weird stuff. And that’s how EMDR was introduced to my life. Go see the person who does the weird stuff. And truly I was willing to try anything at that point that was different than the How does that make you feel? What do you thinking about now? Let’s slogan this. So yeah, she she heard me give a little bit of my backstory and what was bothering me. And it was at that point, I was clearly definitively diagnosed as having a dissociative disorder. And there was no doubt in my mind that that diagnostically met what was going on with me, even more so than the PTSD diagnosis would have. And yeah, through through a summer of EMDR, it lifted what was a very significant portion of my life to that point, I had spent in either suicidal ideation or self injury, so yeah, I just knew I had to offer EMDR to people. It felt malpractice for me not to, after having such an amazing experience with it. And so that started my journey with getting more advanced training in things like EMDR and expressive arts therapy, although my expressive arts therapy journey was kind of funny, because it was the exact same mental health residential ward that I was interning on. And I had a supervisor who was, God bless her, too burned out to care.

Katie Vernoy 8:51
I think there’s a lot of supervisors that have been there.

Jamie Marich 10:29
And she said, Oh, you sing songs, you dance dances, why don’t you do that with the kids? Certainly nothing we’re doing really works. And so she gave me a blank check to really explore a lot of these performance art modalities that I had used to teach English when I was in Bosnia, because I’ve been singing and dancing and onstage and in some form or another, my whole life. And yeah, so that’s how I started a lot of my interest in clinical expressive arts and continued to get more training and a lot of self study and that, and then eventually, yoga, meditation, Reiki kind of came to my path through my weird counselor. And to me, the thing that really fuses them all is this invitation to repair our relationship with our body. That we have to access, healing at the level of the body, if we’re ever going to hope to heal our mind. Or if your beliefs take you there, to work with our soul, and those principles and those aspects of us. And so since those early days, because I had such a radical experience with the power of embody healing, I’ve just been an ambassador for it. Because that’s where I have seen so much of the deep transformation occur. And as Curt referenced, I’ve been pretty out through most of my career, even as I’ve become more public, definitely out as a recovering person. In 2015, I also kind of fully identified and came out as bisexual. On one way, it wasn’t a big coming out, because people who really knew me knew. But I felt it was very important to identify that in some professional discourse, especially as we talk about working with people who are diverse. And then in 2018, I kind of fully came out with a lot of my struggles with dissociation. I had dipped my toe in the waters earlier, like in my 2011, book EMDR Made Simple I referenced having dissociative issues. Yet in 2018. I wrote this article where I definitely called out what my parts are, and, and I’ll say, of all three of those coming out, coming out as dissociative was probably the most scary and most intimidating, because there’s just so much misunderstanding and misinformation about what the dissociative mind even is and how it works. Yet, I felt to truly teach about it, I had to be candid. And that’s why I made the choice I did.

Curt Widhalm 12:51
I’ve heard you say before about in this field, that it’s easy to come out as being recovered from substances, it’s relatively easy to come out in getting community around coming out as an LGBT therapist. The dissociative aspects I’ve heard you talk about kind of the response to being a therapist who dissociates as being new territory. And I’m wondering if you can talk about what the therapists community’s response to that initially was. And then also kind of how your clients have responded to knowing that this is a shared feature too.

Jamie Marich 13:32
Great question. The only comment I’ll make about coming out as an LGBT therapist is very determined on where you’re at in the country, because there’s still a lot of folks that really, really struggle. The interesting point, though, about coming out very fully with dissociation is, by and large, the response I’ve gotten from other therapists has been one of gratitude. I remember a few years back when I kind of tested it out at a talk that I was giving, and was just speaking very candidly about dissociation a woman came up to me afterwards just in tears, saying, I can’t believe somebody at the front of the room is talking so candidly about dissociation. And it just meant a lot to her. And then when I wrote the article in 2018, the fighting dissociation phobia, the letters I got and emails were just overwhelmingly positive, with many other therapists coming out as a dissociative professional to me as well saying they never told anybody. I’ve had EMDR trainees come up to me and just with really with a lot of shame, because they’re afraid of how they’ve been judged for it, not only thank me for what I’ve done, but then eventually come out to me themselves, and then ask how can I be real about this while also taking care of myself? So yeah, if people are talking crap, which some of them are current, as you encountered at a very recent conference?

Curt Widhalm 14:54
Oh, yes.

Jamie Marich 14:54
Yeah. Because I think the biggest threat that is out there about it is not, oh, she’s impaired in any way. Because I really believe that a big part of coming out is if people ask me, well, what are you doing to take care of yourself, I have to be able to tell them very candidly. And for me being candid, is a big part of how I do stay present. To be quite honest, it’s when I’m hiding who I really am from the public that I run a bigger risk of being a danger to my clients, right. And in terms of the client base, I’ve gradually attracted more and more over the years, it’s also other folks who have some level of dissociation due to trauma, who really feel they want to have a therapist who’s candid about being able to talk about it, and they don’t feel they have to hide from because I cannot tell you and you may have encountered this to or your listeners may have the amount of clients who have just experienced a high degree of shame from therapists, about dissociative symptoms they experience and therapists who say things like, Well, if that parts bothering you just tell that part to shut up.

Katie Vernoy 16:00
Oh, geeze. Oh, man.

Jamie Marich 16:02
Don’t listen to those parts of yourself. And I think some of that comes from maybe a well intentioned, but definitely a misunderstood place, about you know, about the disease, and then not even the disease, but just the, the way the dissociative mind works that can manifest as a clinically significant disorder. So overall, it has been an incredibly positive experience, because I’ve learned in my addiction recovery, that the more comfortable I have been able to be with being authentically me, and to speak from this candid place, the the better I am, the more functional I am, the better the teacher that I am, the more present that teacher that I am. And I remember many years back, people were asking me, well, Jamie, what are you going to do a course on EMDR and dissociation? Because it’s a very hot topic in the EMDR community, how do we work with dissociation, you work a lot with complex trauma. And my answer, and my gut of guts was I could not teach on dissociation until I was able to be real about it, that I could go up there and do the PowerPoints and cite the citations and cite the studies which are important to be clear, because a lot of that has really been needed to validate the existence of dissociation. But that’s not my style to talk about it from that perspective. Because anytime I would try to do that it was just feeling like I was turning into a number or clinical pod, as opposed to this is a very rich lived experience I have to share. And I’ve always been careful in any of my speaking candidly that it’s not all about me, because I as a phenomenologist, I recognize that anybody’s lived experience here is valid to enter into the discussion. And one thing I try to do in teaching on dissociation is to help people recognize the power of their own lived experience to help them make better clinical decisions, and intertwine with what they’ve already learned. But I think in order to do that, I have to be able to model a candidness and an authenticity myself.

Katie Vernoy 17:59
The question I have, because this is I’ve not been involved in this conversation at all. So I’m just sitting here rapt with kind of very interested in this. But when you said that therapists have been relieved, and there’s not been, you know, this huge push back except something that happened with Andrea. So we’ll talk about that next. But for me, I guess I want to more fully understand the experience, because I know there’s times when I mildly dissociate in session where I’m, you know, I’m overwhelmed or whatever. And I, you know, I lose, I stopped tracking, I do those types of things that are fairly typical. And I haven’t really thought about what it would be like to have dissociation in session in kind of a more, I don’t know what the right word is, in a more kind of intense way. I, you know, I don’t know, like, I know, what I do to take care of myself to decide is to try to stay present. But to me, I’m just very fascinated, because I think that there are things that come up for me in session that has to do with my own you know, anxiety, depression, you know, the things that I face. And I know what I do, but I’m just very curious, because I think that dissociation, and especially any kind of dissociative disorder is very scary for therapists, even though we’re supposed to know what we’re supposed to do about all this stuff. And so to me, like, what does it look like for you, after you manage it? Like what are the things that you would recommend to other folks who are experiencing these types of things as well? You know, kind of the survival guide aspect of our podcast if you have dissociation as a therapist, what do you do?

Jamie Marich 19:30
Well, the first reality to recognize is we all dissociate. And I think that is the big thing that helps to normalize this as an issue, as a condition. When I teach on this, I offer a lot of examples of how the Netflix binge can potentially be dissociative. Drifting off in a daydream when you’re feeling overwhelmed, could potentially be dissociated. We’ve all done that, at one time or another. There’s just a lot of ways that are socially accepted, diving into our phone ones can be a way that we dissociate. And the key thing is to understand that all dissociate means is to sever the Latin root where we get the word dissociate means to sever. And we have this tendency to sever from a moment when the moment is overwhelming, or when the moment and it’s just a general word, I use that sometimes it hits us more as hyper arousal. Sometimes it’s more hypo arousal, but there’s just some kind of activation. And when we are with clients, for instance, a lot of times it’s their own content they’re bringing forward that can cause us to have the severing. Sometimes it’s just our own tiredness, our own tiredness, not feeling well on a day to day basis. I know, for instance, when I’m overheated, and I don’t have proper rest, I am in a much more likely place to dissociate not just when I’m with clients, but when I teach as well. And I mean I think the key for me from a survival guide aspect has been really developing an ironclad mindfulness practice. And another way to kind of look at the connection here between dissociation and mindfulness, and this comes from the work of Christine Forner, who’s a leader in the field, that dissociation is essentially the opposite of mindfulness, or dissociation is a sense of missing mindfulness. And when you’ve learned to dissociate as a response to unpleasantness, it can become very difficult to practice mindfulness. And so a joke I often make what I teach is okay, so mindfulness is off the table, right? We can’t teach mindfulness because people dissociate. It’s like, you know, BS, I mean, the answer is obviously, that’s the medicine is teaching mindfulness, but in a way that’s very graduated very meet people where they’re at. And so not only would I take that approach with clients who dissociate, but for me as a therapist, having my practices I do every morning, before I see a client or before I teach are absolutely vital. And it’s a little yoga sequence that I do, a breath sequence that I do, I carry rocks in my pocket, some breath strategies I could do at any given moment, can always help kind of bring me back. And my favorite working definition of mindfulness is the practice of coming back to the present moment. And that’s the linguistic thread that we really get from the Sanskrit definition of mindfulness, that mindfulness is not like be here. I mean, it can be that whole be here now idea. But even more than be here. Now, it’s okay, notice that you’re not here now. And when you do, how can you return back to the now. And I say this, when I teach that it may take you 8-10 times a minute, to keep coming back. But the more and more you do it, the more automatic that it becomes. So something that I trained therapists with, especially when I’m working with them on kind of how do you develop your wellness and your self care plan is I would rather see you do small mindfulness practices throughout the day, in a consistent manner, then do nothing and go to one good yoga class every weekend. Still go to the yoga class, if you can, that’s your self care you have established for the week, still go to the spa. But the best, most consistent self care that will help you stay present and will help you release as you go, is to have these little release rituals and strategies. Another one that I do often is after sessions, I’ll just kind of flick my hands down to the ground. And as a way of saying, Okay, I’m releasing whatever I picked up in that session. And sometimes, even during this session, if I find myself drifting off in any way, I know how to place my hands or my fingers, just so using some yoga mudras I’ve learned, sometimes it’s just a matter of drawing my attention back to the third eye area, the center of the forehead, even if I can’t touch it, because that’s drawing too much attention to myself, just bringing my attention and awareness there. And taking a breath into that is another strategy I do as I go, because that third eye area, which it would be the woowoo way of looking at it, yes, the scientific reality is that’s our medial prefrontal cortex, which is where mindfulness happens. It’s the pineal gland, which is responsible for so much of this good hormone release. So it’s really just an accumulation of little strategies like that, that I’ve had to learn for my own survival in this world that I believe make me a much more present therapist, and I hope to pass that on to others.

Curt Widhalm 24:11
So we’ve hit a couple of times on this episode are made reference to EMDRIA, which for our American audience is the the big EMDR Association. A really what happened at the most recent conference is just a therapist with a bone to pick, and asking question. Imagine critical therapists out there. But

Jamie Marich 24:30
Yeah, and to be clear, that’s not EMDRIAs fault.

Curt Widhalm 24:33
No, that’s that’s literally any conference other than Therapy Reimagined where this happens.

Jamie Marich 24:39
Wonderful. Yeah. Cause if anything, I just want to interject before you say the rest of your question. I give a lot of props to the EMDR International Association for inviting me to speak this year from this personal perspective on dissociation. I didn’t think they would, and they did. And so I really get some credit and yeah, as Curt mentioned that there was a therapist in the audience who seemed to have a bone to pick about my perspective, but I just dealt with that. So.

Curt Widhalm 25:06
But for our longtime listeners, Katie’s made reference before about some of her distancing from a professional organization, you’ve had kind of a story that similar with this with EMDRIA. And kind of where I think the benefit to our audience is, is knowing when you have disagreements, knowing what kind of advocacy that you can do, and kind of that reconciliation process of where your journey is, when it comes to the professional organization.

Jamie Marich 25:41
Well, I’ll tell you a little bit of the backstory, because the more I’ve really analyzed it, I don’t see EMDRIA as a lot of the culprit for some of my disdain earlier on as just more the EMDR establishment. Because to give listeners a little bit of a backstory, I mean, I think EMDRIA here is actually what has allowed EMDR to really grow. Because EMDR was, of course, created by Dr. Francine Shapiro, the late Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1989. And it was handled for many years, just under the auspices of her Institute, the EMDR Institute. And even in these modern times, the EMDR Institute is still kind of seen as like the old school EMDR training with models that are most connected to Dr. Shapiro and people who really stay close to her. But in 1995, Dr. Shapiro recognized that we had to have a separate organization independent from her EMDR Institute, in order to regulate standards and training over EMDR. And what Dr. Shapiro did was essentially allow EMDRIA to be created. And I give so much credit to her for that now, in a way that I didn’t really have vision to see 10-12 years ago, when I was really first starting to get involved. Because I look at how some of these other therapy modalities that are good, that have I’m not going to mention any by name, but that have really emerged as popular modalities for trauma, but they’ve kept a tight trademark on them. And it’s to me makes it more about a commercial practice than something that we’re opening up to greater scrutiny and having other people’s perspectives come in. And the reality that I’ve come to learn is the existence of EMDRIA allows somebody like me to exist, who is a rebel, in a lot of ways. I stay loyal enough to the standard protocols that were asked to teach. But fundamentally, as long as my materials pass muster with EMDRIA, I’m allowed to teach how I want. And that’s something not a lot of innovative therapies can actually purport at this point. And so yeah, like when I first started getting involved, and some some of my perspective on this, as I think this was a little bit of my youthful enthusiasm, not liking what she saw was she’s not a man like, oh, you know, you’re trying to make EMDR, this very inaccessible thing and all of that. And like any professional organization, I think you have rising waves and tides, that can ebb and flow with who’s on the board, with who’s in charge of leadership, with who’s in charge of standards and training. And I mean, a lot of what I’ve just tried to learn to do over the years is package a lot of my innovative ideas in language that is congruent with standard protocol EMDR. And to me, they do exist very well. And I wrote a blog not too long ago called not so much of a rebel, making peace with the standard protocol. Because what I’ve I’ve really learned is that the standard EMDR protocol, for instance, which EMDRIA enforces is not the enemy. I think if it’s rigidly applied, it can certainly be the enemy. But the key that I’ve learned now in training other therapists is you have to teach the standard protocol well, and to intone the wisdom of one of my yoga trainers. You have to learn the rules, so you know how to break them elegantly. And in what context to break them elegantly. But if you don’t learn the rules to start with, then you’re just going to come off as amateur. And I think a lot of my conflict and what I’m still kind of this legendary figure for in some circles is in in 2010, this was early times, I wrote a I wrote a pretty abrasive letter to the editor to the EMDRIA Journal calling out some a Doc, what I felt were Dr. Shapiro’s double standards that I still think it with due respect to her has have seeped into the EMDR community, like something I’ve never liked is how, for instance, in EMDR, we have this thing called the detour protocol, which is a specialty protocol that can be used for addiction. It has very little research behind it. But to me the reason it’s been elevated so high is one of Dr. Shapiro’s close associates developed it, where as when some other folks would come out with their innovative ideas what would often be used to squelch them is Where’s the research? And so what I essentially did in that letter to the editor was call out what I saw as a double standard. And you she answered it in a way that I think was was diplomatic and fine at the time. But that’s, that’s, that’s something I didn’t like. And it’s a reason I distanced myself from the EMDR Mainstream for about for about five years at that point, because I’d never abandoned doing EMDR as a therapy, I knew it was like the intervention that defined me as a trauma therapist. But I didn’t know if I wanted to be involved with training it, I was offering a lot of advanced topics courses, especially on EMDR and addiction. But I didn’t know if I had enough technical, good girl-ness… don’t know where that word came from, in order to be a basic trainer or a standard trainer. And then I had a really good experience. This is kind of what brought me back into the fold. In 2014, I was invited to Brazil, and in the interim, from like, 2010 to 2014 I still did a lot of trauma teaching, I was mostly teaching just courses and trauma focused care for one of the national circuit companies. I had developed Dancing Mindfulness during that period, and was experiencing a lot of EMDR ideas. And then I went to Brazil. And I think this is a fun story. So I’m going to tell it. That the Brazilian EMDR Association invited me to come down, they had read my book EMDR Made Simple to speak on EMDR and addiction. And I was a little mystified because all of them in their establishment were trainers for the EMDR Institute, Dr. Shapiro’s company. And I think my first response when they invited me was, Do you know who I am and what I believe? because, like, cool, I’d love to go to Brazil, but and the woman who invited me so yeah, I read EMDR Made Simple, I don’t agree with everything in it, but we like the way you teach on addiction. So would you come? and there was this sense of when you do a demonstration, just follow the standard protocol, and you’ll be fine. And I really had no problem doing that, because I never felt I had deviated much from the standard protocol. But what I had always been about was amplifying a higher degree of phase two preparation, being more creative with these cognitive interweaves or proactive measures we use when somebody gets stuck. And what was funny was I did this demo in Brazil onstage. And what I found was I follow the standard protocol, but I was myself, how I did it, I brought my own personality into it. And afterwards, I just had such a great response to it. And in that moment, I knew I could be a trainer, that the key here is teach what I’m supposed to teach. But with the personality that makes this more friendly and more accessible. And even at that point, I have found that the EMDRIA standards had become because like, with a lot of institution, you have your ebb and flow with sometimes the standards of trainings, people getting more rigid and a little more relaxed. And I noticed that there was a little bit of a relaxing as long as you were able to justify why you were making the modifications you were making. And even in the EMDR standards now, by EMDRIA, you’re allowed to teach whatever you want, supplementary, for preparation, for closure, for how you take history. But what they want you to stay adherent to is kind of the standard reprocessing protocol. And when I realized those were the rules, I’m like, I could follow these rules. So it’s, it’s just really cool. So I do think when I look at my journey with the EMDR community, it has been this journey of finding an organization that represented the therapy I love so much. And initially, and you both may relate to this, once you get on the insides of an institution.

Katie Vernoy 33:35

Jamie Marich 33:37
No, you’re ruining it for me. How is this working. And I think with some of my youthful enthusiasm I was initially put off by some of that. And I think that’s what inspired I don’t regret I wrote that letter in 2010. Because people still talk to me about it, which is funny. But I really have learned as I’ve stepped back just a lot of the position Dr. Shapiro was in. And it was something I was not sensitive to when I was younger that she was really hated for putting this thing out that many saw as too good to be true. And she had to really crank down and get institutional and just advocate for a lot of research in order for people to not see her as a total quack. And the more I realized that her insistence on that is why EMDR is so mainstream now. I have nothing but gratitude for her. I mean, I still don’t agree with some of the ways she kind of has taught EMDR. Yet, I mean, how could I not love it and see her as a genius for giving us this thing that’s helping to change so many lives now.

Curt Widhalm 34:45
There’s a couple of things in here that I want to highlight in…

Jamie Marich 34:49
Go, mine mine, Curt.

Curt Widhalm 34:51
One. One is really for all the advocacy that Katie and I do and encourage involvement in the professional organizations and taking our hats off of the current professional organization that we’re in is that nothing’s perfect. And, and continuing to advocate and disagree does not necessarily mean getting into being on the board positions. It’s, you know, raising the flag on this and, you know, continuing to live through the principles that you find true to yourself.

Jamie Marich 35:22

Curt Widhalm 35:23
And, you know, shifting gears a little bit here, for our listeners too that, you know, one of our most popular episodes is Is CBT Crap? where I lament. I lament, you know, manualized treatments so much. And one of the difficulties that I’ve really struggled with myself over, you know, the last couple of years of getting so involved in the EMDR world is, how can I be so me in what therapy is, and yet have this, you know, structured manualized therapy that I do. And it’s really what Jamie’s talking about here that even when we do have these, these protocols and these treatments that we do, it’s all about how we make it work. And it’s really being able to bring our own flavor into them, that’s what makes therapy so transformative. Whether it’s EMDR, whether it’s something else, and unfortunately, so many people get trained in, just do this protocol don’t have flavor. And as I’ve gotten more and more involved in EMDR and through the consultations that I provide, I talk about the basic protocol is like learning the chords on a piano, whereas actually demonstrating it is playing jazz. And so there’s a lot of just kind of having that foundational aspects of what you do, but it ultimately becomes how you do it that makes it work.

Jamie Marich 36:48
Agreed. Well, well presented, well summarized.

Katie Vernoy 36:51
So, I’m not an EMDR therapist, I’ve not learned it yet. And I say yet, because I know that Curt’s gonna convince me that I need to learn at some point.

Jamie Marich 37:01

Curt Widhalm 37:01

Katie Vernoy 37:02
He’s, he’s, he’s totally converted. And so with the great respect I have for Curt, I’ve, I’ve started opening my mind to EMDR. But I do recognize that it felt very woo woo. It felt like this weird protocol, because I was, you know, in school at the time that it was just starting, not right when it was starting to be created, but when it was starting to kind of see see the light of day, so to speak on more of a mainstream stage. And I just didn’t get it. Now I’m starting to get it. So I’m not going to say that I’m asking completely from my own position, but close to my own position. Why do you think those of us who are general practitioners don’t get it? Like, what is it about EMDR that we don’t understand? Because to me, I feel like there’s there’s a lot that there’s, I mean, there’s so many different protocols and therapies that do what you’re talking about, kind of get into the healing of the body and those kinds of things. And so I guess, tell me why you love EMDR so much, is maybe what I need to be asking.

Jamie Marich 38:07
Me, I’ll call it out, it was just such a powerful personal experience with it that had I not had that I don’t know, if I would have been this much of an advocate for it. And it was such a powerful personal experience I had after trying so many of the standard things that helped to be clear, they got me far, but not through that ultimate stuck point that asked me to get to the level of my brain below the words, below the thoughts, and into the body and the memories and all of that. So I mean, I want to be clear that, for me, it was having a deep personal experience. For a lot of our trainees who come forward, even if they haven’t experienced EMDR very directly, a lot of what brings them to us is this sense of frustration that what I’m doing still isn’t enough, that is not helping people kind of clear that ultimate stuck point. But then following up on that, I also want to be clear, I am not one of those EMDR is a panacea type. I think anything that gets into the body has potential here and any clinician who is serious about working with trauma ought to be trained in at least one of these specialty modalities that is, goes below just this talk therapy norm because that’s where unhealed trauma really kind of plagues us. And it’s fascinating because I also do a lot of work on a concept called spiritual abuse having grown up in some toxic religious environments. And a lot of these clinical organizations and therapeutic modalities really are like religions if we’re being very clear about it.

Katie Vernoy 39:39

Jamie Marich 39:39
You have, you have your devout believers who kind of ruin it because they can be so zealous and fundamentalist about it but I mean even part of my spiritual path right now is I’m a fusionist, I mean, I still have a Christian identity but I have a lot of Hindu threads in me as well, from my from my yoga practice, and there’s a lot about Buddhism I draw from, and to me, one informs the other. And that’s a lot of the kind of person that I am. And so it’s one of the therapists that I am as well that for me, EMDR and expressive arts are my two main things. They inform each other very beautifully. But I do draw on a lot of learnings from other therapies. So I think the key is, are you doing something you’re passionate about, that you believe in? Because if you know anything about the common factors, research and some of that project, the therapist’s passion, and belief that something will work for the client is one of the main ingredients that’s believed to be a factor in why therapy does work for people because I can’t, in good conscience, sell something I don’t believe in.

Katie Vernoy 39:40

Jamie Marich 39:41
And for me, that’s CBT in these days. I recognize that it’s the needed starting point for a lot of people. And so I can pull out enough CBT stuff if I have to. But my presentation of that is more DBT at this point, because A mindfulness. So yeah, I just think there’s a lot of interesting conversations to be had here. And as long as the client is on a path that’s helping them to get what they define as their their kind of home goal. I think that’s the key. And a lot of the stuff we squabble about really is just details.

Katie Vernoy 41:22

Curt Widhalm 41:23
Thank you so much for spending time with us today. Where can people find more information about you and the trainings that you provide?

Jamie Marich 41:32
Sure. Well, my pleasure. This was a fun interview, you both ask wonderful, thought provoking questions. So couple of resources sites, first thing is just my name.com, JamieMarich.com, that’ll take you to my main site with my calendar. And my book projects instituteforcreativemindfulness.com is where you could find more about EMDR and expressive arts training. We also have a subset page dancingmindfulness.com, if you’re interested more specifically in that. And then my site I’m very proud of as a resource, the site is called traumamadesimple.com. And that is a site that I have set up primarily for consumers and clients to be able to access anything I’ve done that is complimentary online. So a lot of articles, a lot of videos, audio recordings, I just added some yoga nidra meditations that have a clinical bent that the general public can do. So yeah, all of those sites you’re welcome to use and for clinicians listening to this, which I know is a big part of your audience. Feel free to use anything you find on traumamadesimple.com

Katie Vernoy 42:31
Thank you so much. That’s so generous. We appreciate it so much.

Curt Widhalm 42:35
And we will include links to all of Jamie’s stuff in our show notes. You can find those at mtsgpodcast.com. And while you’re over there, check out our Therapy Reimagined 2020 Conference that’s coming up. We are in the throes of picking out our speakers for this year’s conference. So we’ll be updating that here pretty quickly. And until next time, I’m Curt Widhalm with Katie Vernoy and Dr. Jamie Marich.

Katie Vernoy 43:00
Thanks again to our generous sponsor, GreenOak Accounting.

Curt Widhalm 43:04
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Katie Vernoy 43:36
Don’t forget that’s greenoakaccounting.com

Announcer 43:39
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