Exploring Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) as a culturally responsive Cambodian model of therapy
Seponski, Desiree Michele
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It is estimated that between 1.5 and 3 million Cambodians were killed between 1975-1979 as a result of the Khmer Rouge genocide. The victims were primarily highly educated individuals and their families, including government officials, doctors, lawyers, professors, teachers, and psychotherapists. As a result of the devastation, Cambodia is still struggling to educate its country and recover from the economic, political, and psychological damage caused by years of turmoil. The current climate is further complicated by the recent rise of an HIV/AIDS epidemic throughout the country, which has raised the death toll of the second generation of post-war survivors, leaving orphaned children to be raised by their older family members or to live on the streets. A project was developed to address the aforementioned crises by engaging Cambodian therapists at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) in exploring a culturally responsive therapy model. With commitments to providing the community with improved mental health services, responding to stakeholder needs and issues, and creating an understanding of cultural sensitivity, responsiveness, and respect for Cambodian therapists and clients, this dissertation utilized responsive evaluation methodology to explore Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) as a culturally responsive model of Cambodian therapy. Data were triangulated across multiple stakeholders including EMDR trained students therapists (N =16), the RUPP department head, program head, professors/lecturers, clinical supervisors, and peer supervisors serving as cultural advocates and an advisory board (N =11), EMDR workshop participants (N=54), and Koh Pech crisis response therapists (N = 14) using numerous methods including a focus group, interviews, surveys, case illustrations, and live supervision observation. Qualitative and descriptive findings are mixed surrounding the clinical effectiveness of EMDR, yet converge on EMDR currently not being culturally responsive, but having future potential with serious adaptations. Emerging findings are discussed in detail and suggestions for improvement are provided.