Date of Conferral



Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work


Martha Markward


Social workers are increasingly using eye movement, desensitization, and reprocessing (EMDR) to help clients recover from trauma. Little is known about how social workers who work with traumatic client material while using EMDR as their main psychotherapeutic modality experience vicarious trauma. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the experience of vicarious trauma among social workers in Eastern Canada who used EMDR in their practice with clients. Constructivist self-development theory was the framework that informed this study. Data were collected using semistructured interviews with 7 EMDR social work participants who were selected using purposive sampling. Participants were required to have a masters level social work designation, EMDR training, and practice with trauma material at least 40% of the time they see clients. Findings from the narrative analysis showed that participants' concepts of 'self' changed over time, with the changes becoming less acute. Understanding how EMDR social workers experience vicarious trauma has implications for policy, practice, future research, and for social change related to trauma. Social workers who are less likely to become traumatized may fit a prototype that may be more appealing to organizational stability. Clinicians may be able to see the signs and symptoms of vicarious trauma and take more time for education and self-care. Finally, study findings may further research on vicarious trauma and EMDR.

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