Healing Spiritual Abuse with EMDR Therapy

Offering 6 CE and EMDRIA Credits


Generally defined as the use of God or religion as tools to gain power and control by the abuser, spiritual abuse is one of the most overlooked forms of abuse in clinical settings. However, the willingness to address it will give clinicians added insight into many of their clients and how to more effectively and holistically address treatment. Spiritual abuse is not just relevant for those who have been members of cults---it is a very real condition that often occurs in individuals who have been abused, or who struggle with addiction issues. The aim of this presentation is not to single out any one group; rather, to examine common themes of power, control, and shaming/manipulation that exists across religions and spiritual practices. The Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) Model offers an excellent lens through which to conceptualize spiritual abuse as a trauma. Patterned sets of negative cognitions needing to be addressed as treatment issues (e.g., “I am undeserving in God’s eyes,” “Love is earned,” “I am not worthy of Divine love,” “I am shameful/cast to hell,” etc.) can be elegantly targeted with the standard EMDR protocol/targeting sequences and conceptualized within the 3-pronged protocol. This course is the first of its kind to comprehensively define spiritual abuse, frame it within the context of AIP/trauma-informed care, and provide solutions for how to heal it using the EMDR approach.

In this course, theories of spiritual abuse and approaches to understanding it are explored through pastoral, developmental, and clinical lenses. Special consideration will be paid to how spiritual abuse can be described as a trauma framed by the AIP model. Literature review within EMDR literature and in the larger canon of writing about spiritual abuse are woven into the lecture material. Interactive participation is encouraged throughout the presentation as a way of getting participants to engage in their own case conceptualization. Case studies from the presenter’s vast experience on using EMDR as a primary treatment approach in the treatment of spiritual abuse cases (comborbid with other diagnoses and as a general wellness issue) are an integral part of the presentation. Specific targeting sequences using negatively charged spiritual cognitions as access points to phases 3-6 are reviewed and shared. Challenges for personal reflection and other critical thinking activities will help participants understand how the construct of spiritual abuse is relevant to clinical practice and apply this knowledge to all 8 phases of the EMDR protocol. Finally, writing on the theory and practice of helping clients develop healthy spirituality is presented and discussed. Specific connections are made to implementing spiritual resourcing as a phase 2 strategy within EMDR, and for work in phases 7 & 8. 


After this workshop, participants will be able to: 

  • Define spiritual abuse from a pastoral, developmental, and clinical perspective; explain within the context of the AIP model
  • Describe how spiritual abuse affects identity development in clients
  • Identify the common themes amongst religious denominations and spiritual practices that have led to abuse experiences in individuals
  • Assess for commonly encountered negative cognitions acquired by those who have been spiritually abused in the context of clinical symptomology 
  • Develop and implement AIP-informed treatment plans within the EMDR therapy approach that are sensitive to the needs of clients who have experienced spiritual abuse
  • Identify components of healthy spirituality that will assist in the recovery process within the EMDR approach
Jamie Marich
Jamie Marich
ICM Founder & Director

About the instructor

Dr. Jamie Marich describes herself as a facilitator of transformative experiences. A clinical trauma specialist, expressive artist, writer, yogini, performer, short filmmaker, Reiki master, and recovery advocate, she unites all of these elements in her mission to inspire healing in others. She began her career as a humanitarian aid worker in Bosnia-Hercegovina from 2000-2003, primarily teaching English and music while freelancing with other projects. Jamie travels internationally teaching on topics related to trauma, EMDR therapy, expressive arts, mindfulness, and yoga, while maintaining a private practice in her home base of Warren, OH. Marich is the founder of the Institute for Creative Mindfulness and the developer of the Dancing Mindfulness practice to expressive arts therapy. She is also the co-creator of the Yoga Unchained approach to trauma-informed yoga, and the developer of Yoga for Clinicians. Marich is the author of EMDR Made Simple: 4 Approaches for Using EMDR with Every Client (2011), Trauma and the Twelve Steps: A Complete Guide for Recovery Enhancement (2012), Creative Mindfulness (2013), Trauma Made Simple: Competencies in Assessment, Treatment, and Working with Survivors, and Dancing Mindfulness: A Creative Path to Healing and Transformation (2015). Marich co-authored EMDR Therapy & Mindfulness for Trauma-Focused Care along with colleague Dr. Stephen Dansiger, which was released with Springer Publishing in 2017. 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. Marich’s writing and work on Dancing Mindfulness was featured in the New York Times in 2017.  In 2015, she had the privilege of delivering a TEDx talk on trauma. NALGAP: The Association of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Addiction Professionals and Their Allies awarded Jamie with their esteemed President’s Award in 2015 for her work as an LGBT advocate. The EMDR International Association (EMDRIA) granted Jamie the 2019 Advocacy in EMDR Award for her using her public platform in media and in the addiction field to advance awareness about EMDR therapy and to reduce stigma around mental health.


This course meets the requirements for 6 Continuing Education credit hour by the CE approval bodies listed below:

The Institute for Creative Mindfulness is an approved provider of continuing education in EMDR Therapy by the EMDR International Association (EMDRIA). Course Approval: #10002-DL84.

The Institute for Creative Mindfulness is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The Institute for Creative Mindfulness maintains responsibility for this program and its content.

Institute for Creative Mindfulness, #1735, is approved to offer social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program. Organizations, not individual courses, are approved as ACE providers. State and provincial regulatory boards have the final authority to determine whether an individual course may be accepted for continuing education credit. Institute for Creative Mindfulness maintains responsibility for this course.  ACE provider approval period: 03/16/2020 – 03/16/2021. Social workers completing this course receive 6 continuing education credits. 

The Institute for Creative Mindfulness is an approved provider of continuing education by the State of Ohio Counselor, Social Worker, and Marriage and Family Therapist Board (OCSWMFT) for counselors, social workers, and marriage/family therapists. Approval: #RCS091306

This is a hybrid, self-paced distance learning course, comprised of reading material and video content. This is an intermediate level course. Completion of all modules, a course evaluation, and post-test is required to receive CE Certificate. Course evaluations are administered after completing all course modules. The post-test is comprised of true/false and multiple choice questions and requires a passing mark of 75%, and is administered after completion of the course evaluation. Upon passing the post-test, participants are able to download their CE certificates.

This course was first published August 1, 2020.

Please contact us with any questions or concerns at support@instituteforcreativemindfulness.com.