An Expat Perspective on the Trauma and Dissociation Field in France

An Expat Perspective on the Trauma and Dissociation Field in France

Written by Sharon Korman, MA MFT

From ESTD Newsletter Volume 2 Number 2, February 2012 > read the original article in our newsletter


I am an American psychotherapist in Paris.  I have been living here for 4 and one-half years, working here a little over three.   When I arrived, I already had many years of working experience, had been trained in EMDR, DBT, and working with dissociation. But I was dull, sluggish, complacent and uninspired in my work.  I was in need of a change, a shake-up; I was in search personally and professionally.  I have ultimately found a challenging and enriching path in both domains.

One of my early professional steps here was to join EMDR-France, which eventually led me to also join ETSD.  These choices have opened a doorway to a vibrant, excited, and growth leaning community of therapists and teachers.  My peers here are hungry for skills and knowledge and there is a wealth of training choices available to meet that hunger.  There is a constant flow of trainings available on everything from honing particular EMDR skills and using specific protocols, to Mindfulness based interventions to understanding and treating traumatized and dissociative patients.  There are a plethora of study groups, co-vision and supervisory groups available to deepen the workshop and conference experiences. I have had the feeling that I am riding a great wave of interest and learning here in Paris.  This wave is indicated by the growing French membership in ESTD:  2009 – 4, 2010 – 9, and in 2011 – 59 members!  The French community of therapists who are interested in the treatment of traumatic experiences and dissociative troubles are forward thinking, integrative in thought, curious and eager.  I am lucky to live in a city that is a hub of stimulating professional activity.

The Institut Europeen de Therapies Somato-Psychiques (IETSP ) founded by Bernard Mayer and Françoise Pasqualin in 2007, has greatly contributed to this wave of learning. Their mission is to promote in France the most innovative advances in the treatment of Trauma and Complex Dissociation by sponsoring trainings presented by world re-knowned, international presenters.  They have already brought Onno Van der Hart, Ellert Nijenhuis and Suzette Boon from the Netherlands, Pat Ogden, Steven Marcus, Maggie Phillips and Peggy Pace from the United States and in the up-coming year and one half are sponsoring an 8 weekend comprehensive cycle of conferences covering multiple topics in the treatment of the sequelae of traumatizing experiences, specifically complex dissociation.  We can look forward to hearing from Kathy Steele and Roger Solomon (USA) as well as some of the above-mentioned presenters.  I can attest from personal experience that Bernard, and Françoise, along with Natalie Gernez provide a conference experience that is run smoothly and efficiently which allows the participants a comfortable and effective learning environment.

In December, IETSP and L’Institut Pierre Janet( ) co-sponsored  ESTD’s first European workshop in Paris on the diagnosis and treatment of Complex  Dissociation. The four presenters (Pat Ogden, Hélène Delucci, Suzette Boon and Onno Van der Hart) from the US, France and the Netherlands provided a multi-faceted and comprehensive overview of treatment possibilities.  The over 150 participants from all over Europe proclaimed the conference a rousing success.  Despite the presenters differences in style and focus, taken together they presented a integrated and wholistic view on this specialized treatment.  Similar themes were re-iterated by each presenter weaving together a sense of a comprehensive treatment view.  Much like a quilt or a mosaic in which disparate pieces placed together within a contained frame provide a whole and beautiful result, the presenters did a great job of giving the participants an experience of how treatment can be a crucible for healing and wholeness.  This I personally found particularly compelling and reassuring.

My personal and professional lives in Paris continue to straddle two worlds, the one of an Anglophone expat and the French one. I am still learning how to knit these two world experiences together into an integrated whole.  Maybe this, in a metaphoric way, partially explains my interest in this area.  As I learn to knit together the complexities of treating traumatizing experiences I also become more adept at understanding my own inner complexities and resultantly become a more integrated and whole human being and a more effective psychotherapist.