EMDR in Romania – A Personal Story

By Morven Fyfe, AF-EMDR Therapist now based in Surbiton.

As an enthusiast for Attachment-Focused EMDR, and after a spell on the very AF-EMDR-friendly Steering Group of the EMDR Association’s East-Anglia Regional Group, I was asked by EMDR Focus to summarise some EMDR-related findings in Romania, where I’ve just spent several months.

For background, I was for a time married to a Romanian, and we have a son whose departure to University last October meant there was time for a sabbatical, and a retracing of my steps back to Romania.

Romania Fyfe

Driving across Europe, and spending first some weeks near Romania’s Transsylvanian mountains, I came to rest for several months in the lovely Sibiu in the centre of the country, where I had a chance to get to know the situation with EMDR in one of the EU’s newest members.

My last visit had been in 2007, the year of EU accession when local Romanians were convinced that joining would improve nothing.  And last November, as I prepared for my long drive out, friends and family warned how grim and dangerous it would be – dangerous roads, dreadful internet, wily tricksters and gypsies.  

How wrong they all were.

What’s more, while I was there I found that I could easily practise online with clients in the UK, and so the sabbatical became a working adventure.  

Tracking down the EMDR Romania website, I got in touch with Anca Sabau MD, who turned out to be EMDR’s chief networker in the country. 

I found myself instantly invited to meet up, and join her and her team at a February Conference, with Anna Gerge, the prolific author and trauma specialist from Sweden (see her website here). Still, in the weeks preceding I had plenty of time to travel around, and see what has changed.

Romania Fyfe2
Taken on the day of the EU Summit, which took place in Sibiu on 9th May, (Europe Day), in Romania

In the years since joining the EU, Romania has forged ahead. 

Information technology has been absorbed fast, and plenty of educational establishments use English as the principle language. Internet connectivity is cheap and reliable. Air BnB hosting abounds.  Motorways offer safe and easy travel, and general health and safety standards have risen across the board to be on a par with Western Europe. 

Some two million Romanians work abroad, and with the universities having plentiful international links, many Romanians have realised their ambitions and made travel across every continent a way of life.

Meeting Anca and the Team

In February at last I met Anca, (pictured third from the left, below) who runs the EMDR RO bilingual website, linked to ARSIT, the Romanian Association for Trauma Study and Intervention.  

It was lovely to meet the whole team at the two-day training, where 80 Romanian clinical psychologists, psychotherapists and students, were present, taking advantage of Gerge’s training, almost entirely conducted in English.

Anca and team
Taken on the day of Anna Gerge’s Stabilisation Techniques Workshop in Timisoara, from left to right, Daiana, Carina, Anca, Anna, Monica, Amalia, Elena and Roxana
Anca's clinic
The front window of Anca Sabau’s ‘Centrul Medical’ in Timisoara

Anca and her colleagues shared a great deal about the coordination and running of their clinical practice in Timisoara, which delivers psychiatry, psychology and psychotherapy for children, adolescents and their parents.

The team were consistently warm, open and attentive, and not without a playful sense of Romanian wit.

They, Anna and I took part in many separate discussions, sharing our learning and professional challenges with various client groups and institutions in Romania, Sweden and the UK.

Through Anca, I also learned about the ESTD, The European Society for Trauma and Dissociation based in the Netherlands. ESTD had a conference in March and will have another biennial conference in Rome in October later this year,

Just as with the EMDR Romania website, papers written in English are freely available from the ESTD website.

Is it to our loss that our lack of fluency in other languages makes us British hesitant to mix more with our European colleagues? 

I confess that after I had seen how fully the richness of knowledge of EMDR, attachment theory and dissociation had been absorbed and deployed over there (mostly sourced in English), I was slightly embarrassed at my initial lack of faith, in thinking there might be any miscommunication at all.

There for Good Reason

Every nation has a dark side, and whilst there is progress, Romania sees its people suffering in an old-fashioned, misogynistic culture that refuses to admit the realities of childhood trauma, domestic violence and familial/relational dysfunction.

Our colleagues over there have to fight hard to convince authorities that their work with trauma within their own culture is worthwhile.

When we foreigners visit and present our work, this elevates our Romanian Colleagues’ credibility, and improves how their local and national governmental authorities understand the true level of need for these professional interventions. Work presented becomes recorded, and known. 

In my last weeks back in Sibiu, I was aware that I’d witnessed a real turnaround from back in 2007, when Romania had just joined the EU. 

The EU Summit itself took place in the lovely Sibiu, where I had been living (see photo above).  In mid-May as I drove westwards from Sibiu back across Europe, I dropped in again to see Anca and her colleagues in Timisoara. 

On that occasion Amalia was in London, attending the Anna Gomez workshop on how to use EMDR and sandtray with children, no doubt returning to share insights and practical tips to the team.

However in this visit I learned more about the challenges. 

A clinical psychologist, psychiatrist or psychotherapist will receive a salary of no more than 600 Euros per month, and as government employees, have to fund their own trainings and CPD events. Anca Sabau therefore charges colleagues who attend ARSIT events no more than 30 Euros per CPD training day.  Attending trainings abroad is an expensive business for Romanian clinicians.

Connection and Accomplishment

Foreign trainers are invited to come over and give of their time not for high financial gain, but for connection and achievement. 

A significant number of Romanian clinicians train in EMDR but do not complete level two, or if they do, many do not continue to use EMDR as they are unable to afford continuing supervision. In purchasing supervision or other resources from abroad, Romanian banks will charge up to 30% in tax.  This limits the library of up to date literature, also affecting payments for supervision via the internet.

With the lack of clinical and supervisory support in the EMDR world, things may digress away from EMDR unless sufficient professional support materialises.

We discussed solutions; the ideal outcomes to meet clinician’s needs.  Training weekends were enthusiastically suggested which could combine training with 50% of supervised practicum.  Clinicians feel that if these were offered regularly, these would become part and parcel of a more functional professional culture.

And further, accredited EMDR practitioners studying to become consultants abroad are welcome to offer EMDR supervision on Zoom or Skype for no, or a low fee.  Any other suggestions welcome!

If anybody would like to offer trainings and other professional support in Romania, please contact Anca Sabau at the ARSIT website. Anca tells me the next contributor will be Cristina Cortes, presenting her workshop in September.

Well, now I’m back in the UK, to continue my practice as a specialised psychotherapist using counselling, art therapy and EMDR with relational and childhood trauma.

I’ve had a great rest, learned loads, and count my blessings in having a well-resourced practice in Surbiton, Surrey. 

Click here if you’d like to get in touch. 

 

 

One thought on “EMDR in Romania – A Personal Story

  • Well done, Morven. It’s great that you’re at least one person keeping the channels of communication open with this part of Europe! Jen

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