As of January 1, 2021, Wendy Byrd, LPC, LMFT is now the president of the EMDRIA Board of Directors. We interviewed her as a way to introduce her to the membership. The introductory interview is below.
Why did you become involved in EMDRIA, and what has your involvement looked like over time?
It’s been an interesting path to becoming the EMDRIA Board of Directors president and one I would not have predicted. I fell in love with EMDR before I went to graduate school. I was working at a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed and abused girls. I was so excited to take the position that I quit a job where I was making twice as much. The position was a direct care position, it was very hands-on and sometimes messy, and I loved every minute. Trauma was a big subject in our training, and my direct supervisor, whom I looked up to for her powerful clinical skills, had just been trained in EMDR. Carol York, the previous clinical director, had convinced her to take the training. The changes we saw in the children who were able to have EMDR were powerful. That was my first introduction to EMDR.
I sought out quality training, and I ended up in Carol York’s training here in Austin. After I completed my basic training, I immediately joined EMDRIA and started consultation with Carol. We became friends, and she would tell me stories of the earlier days of EMDR and the battles that had to be fought for the therapy to be taken seriously. I am grateful for the strong and passionate therapists who fought hard for EMDR to be here today. Over the years, Carol encouraged me to become more involved with EMDRIA. However, at the time, I was growing my practice and was the president of the local Austin Association for Marriage and Family Therapists. Add to that mix an elementary age son, and I had little bandwidth for anything new.
A few months before Carol’s passing in 2015, I convinced her that it would be fun if I took the spare office she had in her suite. We had a couple of fun months sharing office space, and I am thankful for that time. My new shared office space with Carol meant that EMDRIA’s office was very literally right across the hall. Every day I would walk into the office and pass by EMDRIA and think about Carol encouraging me to “do something with EMDRIA.” I had already started helping her as the EMDRIA regional coordinator in the area. One day I decided it was time to “do something with EMDRIA,” and so I reached out to Gayla Turner, our Deputy Executive Director, to see if I could help in some way. Because of my previous experience with the Austin AMFT Association, I was told I should consider running for the board, and so I did! I’ve been on the board now for three years, and I have found a lot of joy in the work we do. I am happy to continue to help for two more years as president.
How would you characterize the board’s role in EMDRIA?
I read that a board of director’s role in an organization is to provide foresight, oversight, and insight; that stuck with me, and it sums up the role of the EMDRIA Board well. The board is responsible for carrying out the mission and purpose of the organization. Our board is passionate about creating and carrying out a strategic plan that allows us to continue improving members’ experiences and continuing promoting standards in EMDR, now in a virtual world and in person. The board is also concerned with ensuring that we are an organization where diversity, equality, inclusion, and justice are built into our DNA. Our role is to figure out how to do things today that will allow EMDRIA to achieve its strategic goals three to five years from now when many of us will no longer serve on the board. We must also provide oversight to ensure that the programs we implement are fiscally responsible and attainable with the organization’s current resources.
If EMDRIA were to be on the cover of your favorite newspaper or magazine in five years, what would the story be about?
I tend to read a lot of diverse publications. Let’s go with Time Magazine, which could arguably be one of the most influential magazines ever published. Imagine if EMDR was named the Person of the Year, with an entire issue devoted to EMDR and the advancement of mental health and wellness. The article would be titled: “Why the EMDR International Association is a Vital Leader in the Booming Mental Health and Wellness Movement Happening Across the World.” It would discuss the changes happening in the way people view health and wellness, explaining how this movement both the public mental health professionals and the medical profession drive this movement. Time would identify EMDRIA as a leading voice in promoting the growing understanding of the importance of adversity and trauma-informed care in all areas of health and wellbeing. Our leadership programs would be viewed as the gold standard for the industry and a model to follow for advocacy and public education. The magazine would highlight EMDRIA’s role in promoting EMDR Therapy and supporting EMDR clinicians as an example of a leading organization in this movement promoting healing, health, and hope.
How would you describe the goals of EMDRIA, and how do we achieve these goals?
Overall the goal of EMDRIA is to be a leader in promoting EMDR therapy and to meet the needs of EMDR therapists. One of our biggest tasks is ensuring that we have robust standards and training. As we have been thrust into a new virtual age we must ensure that we maintain high standards for our EMDR basic training and all facets of learning that happens for EMDR therapists. We have all had to learn to adapt to this new virtual world, and we will need to take into account how the therapy field has changed and strive to meet the new needs of our members. Our organization must aspire to become a connected community where fairness and inclusion are built into all that we do. Our goal is to meet the needs of all of our members. To achieve these goals, the board is investing resources in each of these areas. We have pulled together our membership’s talents to help us explore and understand these topics and make decisions that will move the organization closer to meeting our goals.
What are your top goals during your tenure as president?
My goal as president is to meet the needs of the organization wherever that ends up being. I think 2020 taught us that you will never know exactly what the demand will be, but you do your best to meet the organization’s challenges and needs, whatever or however that shows up. EMDRIA is already a different organization than we were before the changes of 2020. My goal as president is to be a part of the team that helps move us forward in achieving our mission, and I hope we can leave the organization closer to those goals.
What personal or biographical information would you like to share with the members?
I am a pretty casual person and tend to find the humor in things. Sometimes I crack myself up more than those around me. I am looking forward to my time as president. I have already met so many therapists who are committed to helping others. I look forward to meeting more (hopefully in person at some point) and doing my part to help support EMDR and EMDRIA.