Skip to content
A curated collection of Books, Videos, Articles and more to educate consumers, caregivers and professionals about Complex Trauma.

Complex Trauma Treatments for Adults or Youth

On this page...

    Treatments for Adults or Youth

    Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Resource Development and Installation (EMDR-RDI)


    Would you like to strengthen the resources needed to overcome present challenges without necessarily having to revisit memories of painful past experiences?

    What sets this intervention apart:

    EMDR-RDI is a protocol adapted from Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).

    EMDR-RDI assists clients to develop and “install” internal images, thoughts, feelings and physical sensations associated with positive coping resources. This process is undertaken by evoking this internal material and pairing it with repetitive bilateral movement (for example, clients may a track back and forth movement with their eyes, listen to sounds alternating ear to ear on headphones, sense gentle alternating pulses emitted from buzzers held in each hand, or tap their upper arms in an alternating pattern while giving themselves a “butterfly hug”).

    Therapists help clients to identify specific qualities or “resources” they would like to possess or increase to help them cope with or face current challenges in their lives, like patience, hope, courage. The client and therapist cultivate these qualities through a combination of:

    • guided imagery,
    • recollection of the client’s own past mastery or success experiences, and
    • identification of actual or fictional protective figures and role models.

    Access to and potency of the internal resource may then be strengthened through a combination of specific EMDR techniques and traditional psychotherapy techniques.

    EMDR-RDI can be done adjunctively with a trained EMDR clinician to support one’s primary therapy. It can also be incorporated directly into a client’s ongoing therapy one’s primary therapist is or becomes trained in this method.

    If and when a client decides with their clinician that they are ready, therapy can proceed to the standard traumatic memory processing EMDR protocol. For some clients, chronic avoidance of trauma-specific symptoms or memories can prolong suffering indefinitely, and treatments like EMDR can represent a powerful stage in their recovery process.

    Conversely, for many other individuals impacted by complex trauma, advancing too quickly into intervention focused on exposure to traumatic memories and material can have a negative effect on treatment progress. In these instances, clients could experience:

    • a worsening of symptoms,
    • a return of maladaptive coping, or
    • a relapse of addictive behaviors, or
    • premature treatment dropout.

    Therefore, it is vital that therapists who specialize in trauma treatment work closely with their clients to assess readiness to undertake various phase and components of treatment and carefully monitor tolerance to each intervention or technique used throughout the course of treatment.

    Population served:

    EMDR has been most extensively validated for use with adults. Nevertheless, it is also frequently practiced with trauma-exposed adolescents and to an increasing extent with younger children.

    EMDR is typically administered in individual therapy, but some group adaptations exist, particularly for use with children. Importantly, clients in acute distress receiving inpatient care or experiencing severe symptoms requiring residential treatment are typically not in a state of readiness for traumatic memory exposure and processing treatments like EMDR. Nevertheless, introduction to the EMDR-RDI protocol may be helpful in this context provided that it is implemented with caution as an element of Phase I (safety and stabilization focused) trauma treatment.

    No longer lost

    Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash




    Are you interested in an approach to recovery that understands and focuses on the interrelationship between addiction and trauma?

    What sets this intervention apart:

    Seeking Safety is a treatment protocol in which substance abuse and mental health treatment are integrated and facilitated together.

    Seeking Safety is a present focused model targeting current challenges and offering practical tools to promote stabilization and healthy coping.

    Safety is the first priority of the intervention, providing clients with tools to reestablish safety in their:

    behavioral,physical, emotional, interpersonal and cognitive selves such as:

    • establishing safe relationships,
    • creating a safety plan,
    • practicing healthy coping techniques, and
    • seeking any necessary medical attention.

    Seeking Safety focuses on repairing ideals that were once held by clients but have been dampened by trauma and addiction. Using the therapeutic relationship as a change agent, the therapist holds and reflects the strengths and resilience of the clients, challenging individuals and finding opportunities to promote growth throughout treatment.

    Population served:

    Seeking Safety was created for adults or adolescents 12 years and older. Typically advertised for clients with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders but this is not a requirement. Highly adaptable, this model is built for any setting with any length of engagement and can be provided individually or in group format.

    Trauma Affect Regulation: Guide for Education and Therapy (TARGET) and TARGET-Adolescent


    Would you, or the youth in your care, benefit from understanding the impact of trauma, recognizing strength in your past responses to overwhelming stress, and building practical skills to regain control over emotions and impulses?

    What sets this intervention apart:

    TARGET is a brief, strengths-based approach for youth or adults that empowers clients to be equal partners in their recovery.

    TARGET supports clients in rediscovering goals, choices, and abilities concealed by symptoms of trauma and substance use. Clients achieve this goal through:

    • foundational education related to trauma,
    • increasing awareness of the impact of trauma on the body, brain, and stress response, and
    • reframing behaviors and symptoms as survival adaptations which can be built upon for treatment success.

    Utilizing the acronym “FREEDOM,” individuals are provided a seven-step

    sequence of skills designed to decrease trauma-based reactions and support healthier responses.

    The FREEDOM steps help individuals:

    • build present-focused awareness and increase cognitive control to prevent impulsive reactions to triggers,
    • distinguish reactive emotions,
    • evaluate thoughts and situations to promote choice in responses, set goals, and contribute to the greater community.

    Population served:

    In addition to its adult version, TARGET-A was developed for children and adolescents ages 10 and older. TARGET can be delivered as a manualized treatment protocol or educational curriculum, and has a number of adaptations for specific audiences, such as parents and adults struggling with substance abuse, domestic violence or chronic mental illness. TARGET can be provided as an individual or group therapy, with typical intervention length ranging from 4 to 10 sessions to accommodate client-specific needs.

    Please visit the resources section of this website for downloadable articles and other resources on complex trauma, as well as links to booksvideos and webinars. For inquiries about the topics and resources included in this website, or to correspond with its developers, contact: