EMDRIA Approved  EMDR Consultant and former Trainer 

                      Legacy Attuned EMDR Therapy Protocol
Natalie S. Robinson, LICSW © 2018


Legacy Attuned EMDR Therapy is an adjunct to standard EMDR Therapy (Shapiro, 2001).  It allows us to reprocess maladaptively encoded trauma and beliefs generated by negative institutional, cultural, societal or familial sources, patterns and behaviors.  The protocol promotes awareness and access to ancestral resources. The legacy attuned EMDR protocol is outlined below.  Case examples and narratives are expanded in the chapter, Legacy Attuned EMDR Therapy: Toward A Coherent Narrative,  of the book edited by Mark Nickerson, Cultural Competence and Healing Culturally Based Trauma with EMDR Therapy: Innovative Strategies and Protocols, Springer Publisher.   This book provides an extensive clinical overview on how clinicians can become more culturally attuned and utilize EMDR Therapy to heal clients suffering from overt and embedded transgenerational and cultural abuse and its resultant post-traumatic stress.


                                       PROTOCOL OBJECTIVES

Acknowledge, identify and target transgenerational triggers.


Identify, develop and install legacy attuned resources. ((Korn, 2003, March)


Develop a transgenerational coherent life narrative that reconsolidates fragmented threads from the distant past, the remembered past, current being and future vision.


Formulate a legacy attuned core positive cognition (CPC)
e.g.                                                                                                                                                                                                      a) I can stand up for myself and my family the way my grandmother did.

        b) I can manage what comes up as my ancestors did during the famine.



                            WHEN & HOW to INTEGRATE
with the standard EMDR Therapy protocol
(Shapiro, F. 2001)


Phase 1 Client History and Treatment Planning

Client History

Generate a multi-generational genogram

Include general exploration of patterns, trauma, behavioral and emotional themes in current and past generations


Focus on patterns and narratives relevant to client’s presenting issues rather than dates or historical accuracy


Treatment Planning

Note legacy attuned references

       Note possible targets for earlier or later EMDR reprocessing

       Introduce the client to a possible legacy attuned CPC

                 (core positive cognition)


Explore what qualities client could use currently

Can say, “When we are finished with our therapy what would you like to believe about yourself?” E.g. I can stand up for myself.      

Can say, “Think about who among your ancestors or the people who came before you or a legendary character might be able to say I can stand up for myself.


Phase 2 Preparation

                      Add legacy attuned resources

                 Identify, develop and install appropriate ancestral resources

                 (Korn & Leeds, 2002)

                 e.g.  A relative or legendary source

                 who possesses the quality a client desires.

   e.g.  A man enters therapy because he thinks he is a coward. He remembers a story told about how his great grandfather hid the children in Africa and fought off invaders.  His grandfather’s courage is made accessible to him as a resource.


Phase 3 Assessment

                          Set-up legacy attuned targets and exploration

                      Access legacy based material

                                  Refocus on the multi-generational genogram

                                  Utilize other sources e.g. family stories, media references          


As a course of EMDR therapy is coming toward termination

                 focus on the distant past

Exception: If a client identifies a transgenerational or legacy based trauma early in the therapy, set that up as a target earlier rather than near therapy’s end. Focus on a traumatic distant past deeply relevant to the client. 

e.g.  Slavery/ war or other intense conflicts/ transgenerational familial abuse/ migration/natural disasters   


Set-up for legacy-based exploration

Suggest journey metaphors that may encourage travel by ancient or mythical means.

e.g.  Canoe, on the back of a bird, migration across landscapes, hot-air balloon 


Phase 4 Desensitization 

Reprocess legacy based disturbances

Target past memories and current triggers using

                 standard past and present EMDR prongs.

Reprocess with BLS.  This may take several sessions.

Can utilize time-line processing (Kitchur, 2005) to cover extensive periods of time

Follow channels (go with that)

Manage disturbances


Co-develop a coherent life narrative

                 e.g. When Rachel started therapy she said she thought she was oversensitive and weak. At the end of therapy she told the following coherent life narrative.

                 My ancestors were victimized for centuries because of their religion. They managed to survive in ways that I almost couldn’t do. I came close to destroying myself with addictions. But I got myself out of that with a lot of help.  I’ve worked hard. I’m whole. I’m proud of how far I have come.


Phase 5Installation

of a legacy attuned CPC

             as a course of therapy draws to end        

                 Check core positive self- belief for fit.  Shift as appropriate.

                 eg. I am worthy.

                 Install when V0C is “7 “or ecological “6”.


Phase 6 Body Scan

                 Check bodily sensations. 

                 Process until negative sensations are clear.


Phase 7 Closure

                 Formulate and install a deeply rooted core positive cognition

                 that resonates over time.                                                     

Can say: What do you believe about yourself now as you review your own life and that of those who came before you?

e.g.  I came from strong people and I am strong.

e.g. I’m thankful that I made it and they would be proud of me.




References for the Legacy Attuned EMDR Protocol


Kitchur, M (2005). The strategic developmental model for emdr dysfunctional behaviors. In

R.Shapiro (Ed.), EMDR solutions: pathways to healing. (pp. 8-56) New York: Norton.


Korn. D.L., & Leeds, A.M. (2002). Preliminary evidence of efficacy for EMDR resource development and installation in the stabilization phase of treatment of complex posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58(12), 1465-1487. 


Robinson, N. (2016). Legacy attuned emdr therapy: Toward a coherent narrative. In M.Nickerson (Ed.), Cultural competence and healing culturally based trauma with emdr therapy: Innovative strategies and protocols. (pp.141-159) New York: Springer.


Shapiro, F. (2001) Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: Basic principles, protocols and procedures (2nd Ed.). New York, NY: Guilford.


Natalie S. Robinson, LICSW

 Phone: 781 771-4487

Email: natrobin@natrobin.com