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Tia Burroughs Clayton, MSS
Learning and Community Impact Consultant

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Alyson Ferguson, MPH
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Derrick M. Gordon, PhD
Learning and Community Impact Consultant

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Learning and Community Impact Consultant

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Learning and Community Impact Consultant

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Ashley Feuer-Edwards, MPA
Learning and Community Impact Consultant

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New Beginnings: EMDR Saves Lives

Therapy Center of Philadelphia

New Beginnings: EMDR Saves Lives Logo

Program Website
Winner Status:
Program Type:
Counseling and Support
Target Population:
Individuals who are Low Income

Program Description

Therapy Center of Philadelphia (TCP) is a non-profit whose mission is to help low-income women and transgender communities on the brink of emotional crisis. Providing therapy that is affordable and impactful, TCP catches these vulnerable communities before they slip into poverty . Our clients are hair dressers, house keepers, waiters, nannies, bartenders, baristas, and retail workers- all of whom make too much to qualify for subsidized support yet cannot afford the private therapy market. Our services are effective because they are trauma-informed, not time-limited, and pay attention to how being marginalized can impact our emotional health and well-being. TCP has a unique trauma program utilizing these components called New Beginnings. It offers Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, a highly effective yet gentle approach that provides sustaining relief and healing. EMDR has helped an estimated two million people of all ages relieve many types of psychological trauma and stress. This approach goes to the core of an emotional issue and helps the client resolve it versus programs which focus more on symptom reduction. By using EMDR, these vulnerable communities feel a profound emotional shift that is lasting in their lives and helps them on a path to economic stability.


New Beginnings is innovative because it brings an out of reach option for healing to those who are vulnerable to trauma and emotional suffering. EMDR is one of the most creative clinical approaches in the mental health field today. It uses an 8 phase protocol that helps clients get to the core of their trauma quickly yet gently. It combines aspects of metaphor, cognitive interweaves, body awareness and physical sensation, as well as shifting core beliefs. Therapists help clients pair a traumatic image with a negative core belief, what emotions come up, and where they are in the body. It brings in stabilizing resources such as visualization, metaphor, safe spaces, breath work, and identifying support systems. The ultimate creativity comes from then how the therapist skillfully pulls in these resources during the reprocessing phase of treatment to allow for deep releasing shifts in the client’s relationship to the trauma.


Since launching the program in 2010, TCP has trained 12 clinicians and has partnered with other organizations to support more community-based clinicians becoming EMDR therapists. TCP’s model is easy to emulate as the training is offered at a reduced rate to those working with disenfranchised communities. TCP has a list of accredited clinical supervisors to obtain clinical hours for certification. Through a clinical symposium, TCP shares their best practices to over 100 clinicians, funders, and community members annually and promotes the program through community outreach and networking opportunities at EMDR and trauma-related clinical events. Therapy Center is one of few mental health facilities that pairs their trauma work with consciously attending to clients’ social location and experiences of oppression. Given the political climate, this has sparked other organizations turning to TCP for guidance around how to provide trauma therapy that is truly going to be impactful and sustaining.


TCP has raised over $100,000 in support of New Beginnings since it was funded as a new initiative in 2010. Through the application process and grantee relationship, funders have grown to understand and recognize the efficacy of EMDR that leads to faster sustainable relief as well as a more efficient use of resources. Funders have realized the value in offering this often inaccessible technique to those who are the most vulnerable to trauma and emotional stress. TCP has several clinical supervisors trained in EMDR, has trained at least one therapist a year, and has 5 EMDR therapists on staff at any given time. We have a long-term relationship with an EMDR consultant for clinical supervision and have garnered a reputation in Philadelphia as one of the few community-based settings that offers this option for healing. We also have clients at the top of our fee scale who subsidize the program.


TCP would strongly recommend other community-based mental health facilities building an EMDR program for low-income communities. As stated above, the New Beginnings program is easy to adapt to community mental health settings. EMDR can compliment most traditional therapies such as psycho-dynamic and cognitive behavioral work. It also lends itself well to somatic and embodied/gestalt therapies due to its focus on what is present in the body. It can streamline treatment to be more focused and allows for a specific issue to be worked on. A program requires that staff attend a two week-end training and then receive 10 hours of clinical consultation and supervision and continue to seek this out upon the completion of the training. Philadelphia’s EMDR clinical community is growing and consultation is easily sought to support using the intervention. A strong screening process is recommended to determine who would be a strong fit for the program too.


This program would allow around 25 more low income clients the chance to heal from trauma in a sustainable and transformative way; traumas like witnessing something violent, experiencing child abuse, or racial trauma. It would include training one more staff in the EMDR approach and paying for clinical supervision. The clinical outcomes are easily measurable as the EMDR approach has quantitative scales built into the protocol including a Validity of Cognition (VoC) scale as well as a level of disturbance scale (SUDS). The outcomes would include clients having little to no disturbance around the traumatic event and a high positive core belief. TCP also utilizes a post-traumatic symptoms scale (PCL-I) that would show symptoms reduced through EMDR. Ultimately the outcomes would be that more low-income women and transgender clients would be able to access EMDR, find relief, and strengthen their emotional health after being in the program.