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It’s impossible to have clear plans now…” In this video, Ukrainian EMDR Therapist, Anna Gromova, shares her experience escaping Ukraine last month. She says EMDR has played a critical role in her ability to process the trauma from the events.

Connect trainers Bill Brislin and Mary Jo McHaney continue to work with therapists like Anna. We are inspired by our Ukrainian colleagues’ courage and steadfastness.

We recently had the chance to ask Mary Jo a few questions about her experience of working with Ukrainian therapists throughout the month of March using EMDR Early Intervention Protocols such as the Group Traumatic Episode Protocol (G-TEP) and Group Resource Enhancement Protocol (G-REP).

Here’s what she had to say:

Q: What is it about the G-TEP and other EMDR Early Interventions (Vs. Standard Protocol) that has allowed trauma work to be done in this situation?

Mary Jo.: The ability to assist as much as 20 people at the same time is huge. We can intervene in real time. The crisis is here and now. While standard protocol is incredibly helpful to uncover the stored memories that drive current maladaptive responses, in situations where the current experience is overwhelming, G-TEP and G-REP can play an integral role in helping participants remain present and capable of navigating what is happening to them.

Q: Why do you think it’s better to do this work now rather than wait until everyone is safe/ok/the war is over?

Mary Jo: We are cleaning the wounds as they develop. Ukrainian people are hurting now. We are helping the brain consolidate and accommodate these overwhelming experiences so that the person can continue to stay attuned and respond as adaptively as possible the current situation. It’s like we are applying antibiotics on wounds, knowing that more wounds may occur. Let’s work towards decreasing the opportunistic infection of PTSD by intervening in real time.

Q: What have some limitations/unique parameters been, and how have you, Bill, and the therapists worked around them?]

Mary Jo: The biggest limitation has been language, but, interestingly enough, it hasn’t stopped us. We have been blessed with a wonderful translator who now knows us and knows what we are doing. Svetlana has been incredible at being the clarifying role in this experience.

Q: What do you think the therapists have responded to most? What has been the most beneficial?

Mary Jo: I think it is the felt sense of being seen, supported, and encouraged to access memories that remind them that they can rise above what is happening in the here and now. When we are able to do G-TEP, they report feeling less overwhelmed by anxious memories. They speak of accessing more hope toward the future.

Q: Can you say a few words about how using EMDR Early Interventions with this ongoing war-related trauma compares to times you have implemented the G-TEP protocol in the wake of natural disasters?

Mary Jo: I can’t compare one trauma to the next; however, I do know that the Ukraine experience continues daily. Also, this isn’t a force of nature attacking people, but a neighboring country; people attacking people.  I am sure that adds a layer of complexity to the situation.

Q: What will stay with you the most from your work with the Ukrainian therapists?

Mary Jo: What remains with me is their hope and determination. It’s humbling. They have consistently commented that this work has helped them to feel “seen and supported.” It is their hope and endurance that touches me the most.