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  • Understanding the Impact of Generational Trauma on BIPOC Communities and How EMDR Therapy Can Help

    During a small community gathering in a city not unlike Beachwood, Ohio, a group of individuals from diverse backgrounds shares their stories. Though their narratives vary, a common thread weaves through their experiences – the enduring impact of generational trauma. This trauma, deeply embedded in the collective memory of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, has profound effects that span generations.

    Generational trauma, also known as intergenerational trauma, refers to the transmission of traumatic experiences from one generation to the next. In BIPOC communities, this trauma often stems from historical injustices like slavery, colonization, racial segregation, and ongoing systemic racism. The ramifications of these experiences are not just historical footnotes; they are lived realities that continue to affect the mental health and well-being of these communities. An example of a consequence of this in Cleveland, Ohio are the devastating infant and maternal mortality rates.

    The Pervasiveness of Generational Trauma in BIPOC Communities

    Generational trauma in BIPOC communities is a pervasive issue. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that people from racial and ethnic minority groups are less likely to have access to mental health services, less likely to use community mental health services, and more likely to use emergency departments or receive lower quality care. This lack of access is compounded by the racial trauma endured over generations and in the present day, creating a cycle of mental health struggles.

    The American Psychological Association (APA) highlights that the stress of experiencing racism can contribute to the development of health and mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. A study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior (2018) found a strong link between racial discrimination and mental health issues, particularly depression and anxiety, in minority groups.

    Understanding EMDR Therapy

    Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a psychotherapy technique that has shown promise in treating trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Developed by Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s, EMDR therapy involves the patient recalling distressing experiences while the therapist directs their eye movements. This process is thought to mimic the psychological state of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, which helps in processing and integrating traumatic memories.

    EMDR Therapy and Its Efficacy for Trauma

    The efficacy of EMDR therapy in treating trauma has been well-documented. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), EMDR therapy is one of the recommended treatments for people with PTSD. A 2017 meta-analysis published in the Journal of EMDR Practice and Research reported significant reductions in the symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety, and subjective distress in patients who underwent EMDR therapy.

    EMDR Therapy in Treating Generational Trauma in BIPOC Communities

    EMDR therapy’s potential in addressing generational trauma within BIPOC communities is significant. The therapy’s focus on processing and integrating traumatic memories can be particularly beneficial in addressing the deep-seated trauma passed down through generations. A study in the Journal of Trauma & Dissociation (2019) highlighted the potential of EMDR therapy in treating symptoms related to complex and historical trauma.

    Challenges and Considerations in EMDR Therapy for BIPOC Communities

    While EMDR therapy offers a ray of hope, it’s essential to consider the unique challenges faced by BIPOC individuals seeking this treatment. Cultural sensitivity and awareness are crucial. Therapists must understand the historical and social context of the trauma experienced by these communities. A one-size-fits-all approach is not effective; instead, therapy must be tailored to meet the specific needs and experiences of individuals from these diverse backgrounds.

    The Importance of Culturally Competent Care

    Culturally competent care is vital in effectively addressing generational trauma in BIPOC communities. This involves understanding and respecting the cultural experiences of these individuals and incorporating this understanding into the therapeutic process. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) emphasizes the importance of cultural competence in mental health care, noting that a lack of understanding and cultural awareness can lead to misdiagnosis and inadequate treatment. Here at Ascension Counseling we are proud to have multiple culturally sensitive clinicians who use EMDR Therapy to treat generational trauma, racial trauma and historical trauma. 

    Moving Forward: Access and Advocacy

    To truly address the impact of generational trauma in BIPOC communities, there needs to be a concerted effort to increase access to mental health services, including EMDR therapy. This involves not only making services more available and affordable but also ensuring that mental health professionals are trained in culturally competent care.

    Advocacy plays a crucial role in this endeavor. Raising awareness about generational trauma and the benefits of treatments like EMDR therapy can help break down the stigma surrounding mental health in BIPOC communities. Additionally, advocating for policy changes that increase funding for mental health services and support the training of mental health professionals in culturally sensitive practices is essential.


    Generational trauma in BIPOC communities is a complex and multifaceted issue that requires a thoughtful and nuanced approach. EMDR therapy, with its focus on processing traumatic memories, offers a promising avenue for healing. However, its effectiveness hinges on its delivery in a culturally sensitive and competent manner. As we move forward, it is crucial to continue advocating for increased access to mental health services and for the integration of cultural competence into all aspects of mental health care. In doing so, we can begin to address the deep-seated effects of generational trauma and pave the way for healing and resilience in BIPOC communities. If you are in need of assistance and you believe EMDR can help you, please contact us today by emailing intake@ascensioncounseling, calling (833)254-3278 or using a contact form.