Interviewee Marshall Lyles uses sand tray and poetry alongside EMDR in his work with traumatized children.

Marshall Lyles 

  • Lives in Austin, Texas
  • Is a marriage and family therapist by training 
  • Also a registered play therapist 
  • Uses sand tray and poetry as his primary integrations in the EMDR world 
  • On faculty in an interpersonal neurobiology program 

His Experience in Becoming an EMDR Therapist 

  • Was originally headed toward journalism as a career until an undergraduate advisor noticed his interest in therapy 
  • Living in Texas, there wasn’t a lot of understanding about being a therapist
  • Marshall sometimes felt like a rebel by choosing this path 
  • Because of a problematic first exposure, he became a little apprehensive about EMDR 
  • However, seeing positive experiences with a different person eventually turned it around
  • “[I had] these amazing consultants who, you know, brought life to it and helped me find my version of how to be really practicing with fidelity, but still understanding that there was a place for creativity” (9:41)
  • There isn’t a “Right” or “Wrong” way to practice EMDR
  • But unfortunately, it’s oftentimes received that way 
  • Importantly, we need to integrate other ways of presenting it 

Interpersonal Neurobiology and EMDR

  • “I think the more we learn about the brain, the more it’s saying: Understand memories. Understand relationships.” (12:53)
  • Additionally, we are always learning more in the field of neurobiology and theories are constantly changing
  • Sometimes we can rigidly cling to a new theory and not open up to updates 
  • Though it’s important to grow and adapt 

Expressive Arts and EMDR

  • Marshall uses the basics of AIP
  • “We believe in the power and the wisdom of the human sitting across from us” (19:32)
  • Including children
  • Importantly, communicate to them that you trust them 
  • Additionally, starting with an open space without pressure can help them open up without prompting
  • Practicing in an expressive way can add some responsibility to the therapist
  • Because if you aren’t relying on a worksheet, you have to make sure you are following the same general concepts 
  • By being attuned to what is naturally unfolding 
  • Also will introduce bilateral stimulation in the beginning sessions in case it’s needed
  • He tries to introduce it within whatever medium the client is drawn to 

Working with Adopted Children 

  • Attachment is important to know 
  • Because it will let you know what kind of resources a client needs 
  • Many forms of therapy models are developed with an attachment security bias 
  • Additionally, with adopted clients, it is assumed that before the trauma there was safety 
  • But that is not always the case 

Client-Therapist Relationship 

  • This relationship is integral to therapy
  • Also from an interpersonal neurobiology perspective, it’s important to feel that safety 
  • Additionally, it’s important for the therapists themselves to feel loved and worthy before meeting with their clients 
  • Otherwise, they can’t be relational with their clients 
  • Marshall emphasizes relationships and the feeling of safety with his clients 
  • For example, talking about a “stop” signal early on can help with feeling safe
  • For adopted clients, a major issue can be disenfranchised grief 

Therapy and Disabilities 

  • Humility is important 
  • Because there will always be something in your office that feels hard or overwhelming to someone with a disability 
  • Importantly, notice and accept the discomfort or lack of safety 
  • “We can really quickly make it about our need to be appreciated instead of their need to be safe” (45.02)
  • Also, stay open and flexible 
  • Poetry is great for this reason- no rules, no form, no punctuation 
  • All the while establishing a rhythm 

Integrating Poetry in Sessions

  • Sometimes will call it “lyrics” instead 
  • Reading poetry can be beneficial to you as a therapist 
  • Because it’s lighting up the right part of the brain
  • Also, there are studies that show the differences between reading prose and poetry
  • And clients tend to respond poetically 
  • “It enhances the processing, I think, to just be engaged in the rhythm of what they’re saying as much as the content about what they’re saying” (50:01)

Transitioning Through the Therapeutic Process

  • Marshall doesn’t try to communicate to a client that they are striving for a certain technique or intervention 
  • It’s important to let go of certainty and increase the capacity for not knowing 
  • The client will give cues about what they are needing
  • Whether it be something more concrete or rhythmic 
  • Sometimes things lead to a rupture
  • But it’s important to welcome it and initiate repair 
  • Some of the most powerful healing moments can come from a rupture 

Trainings and Books





Did you know?  After full completion of Beyond Healing Institute’s Somatic Integration and Processing training, each participant can receive 21 NBCC hours. 

Beyond Healing Center

Beyond Healing Media

Interested in supporting a child? 

  • 100% of the proceeds donated to the Burntout Educator will provide therapy for a child in the public school system
  • Not therapy capped at a certain number, but an open-ended relationship with a highly qualified therapist in the BHC network. 

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Executive Directors: Jennifer and Ryan Savage, Melissa Bentinnedi, Bridger Falkenstein
Hosts: Jennifer Savage, Melissa Benintendi, and Bridger Falkenstein
Filmographer: Tyler Wassam
Podcast Producer: Jamie Eggert
Original Music Composers: Bridger Falkenstein and Caleb Boston
Show Notes: Jordan Murray-Harper