A Community of Heart: Kathy E. B. Davis



Despite roots that go deep into American history, Katherine Davis’ experience in life has turned her into a woman who deeply understands the diversity of the human spirit.

Although Kathy’s ancestors did not arrive on the Mayflower, her family came to America in 1723. Kathy was born in Asheville, North Carolina, to Beauford Buchanan Davis and Pryor Langford Davis. Her father was career military and traveled the world in the service of his country with his wife and daughter in tow.

The Davis’ enjoyed the excitement of being placed into a new culture and learning all they could about the people and the new knowledge to which they were exposed. She averaged one new school a year and was educated in learning institutions both on and off military bases. For the most part, the base schools were excellent, and the public schools varied. As she traveled the globe and was dropped into one new school after another, she learned the skill of “scrappiness” that a smart, only child of a military family needed to know when she had no siblings or friends to “have her back.”

One of the most significant values that Kathy learned from being part of a military family is that of service. No matter what else you do in your life, it is crucial to do what you believe in and to be useful in the world. This is evidenced by her family history and in Kathy’s own life.

Kathy completed high school in Avondale, Georgia and went on to Nursing School at the Medical College of Georgia. During the initial part of her training she learned that “I was the worst prospective nurse” and quickly moved into Sociology and Psychology. Then, she transferred and later graduated from Georgia State University with a B.S. in Sociology and Psychology. Intrigued by what she had learned, she went on to Tulane University’s School of Social Work with an emphasis in Clinical Social Work with children. In 1966, she was granted her M.S.W.

Kathy has been exposed to the vagaries of living throughout her life, especially during childhood and adolescence. They have deeply affected her:

Kathy is 5 years old in China, on the coast, north of Shanghai. She learned some Chinese and was the interpreter for her parents. In China, rickshaws were drawn by people and corpse wagons were pulled past the complex where she lived every morning with piles of bodies picked off the streets the previous night. Bodies of babies, usually females, floated in the water as she and her family traveled by boat to other cities.

Still in China, Kathy faced her own personal trauma at age five. Watching adults digging in the dirt in the safety of the military complex in which she lived, she started to laugh thinking that they were having fun digging as she had done so many times before. One of her “buddies”, a guard who had befriended her, heard her laughing. Misunderstanding her behavior, he severely shamed her for laughing at people less fortunate than she who were looking for food. In the course of his anger, he tried to push her out of the gate. This was a terrifying experience for Kathy as she had been told if she were put outside the gate she would be kidnapped. As she was not proficient enough in Chinese, she was unable to explain to him what had happened. She did not want to tell anyone that he had reprimanded her and tried to put her outside, because even at the young age of 5, Kathy knew that if she said anything he would be fired, and his children and family would starve. She is 11 years old in Guantanamo, Cuba. As she traveled to the city of Santiago, she remembered the fear of entering the jungle overgrowth or cane fields as Fidel Castro’s men hid in the mountains and often came down for supplies. Desperate men roamed the streets and were dangerous because of their lack of food and inability to support their families.

Kathy is 22 years of age and a graduate student at Tulane University working on an MA in Social Work. It is 1965, Hurricane Betsy came roaring through New Orleans flooding the 9th ward and creating similarities to the recent Hurricane Katrina catastrophe. This was the first time Kathy was exposed to a natural disaster and she and her fellow students were sent out with the relief effort. Her duties were to help children who were waiting out the storm in empty public safe spaces, not knowing if they had a home to go home to or not.

As a result of Kathy’s experience, early trauma, and exposure to diversity, she demonstrated a great capacity for working in the field of Social Work. She began her career at Children’s Hospital
in Columbus, Ohio, where she worked in the Comprehensive Care Clinic assessing those patients with undiagnosed medical and psychiatric disorders.

In 1970, she moved to the Yale New Haven Hospital, where she was the Director of the Child Abuse Program. While there, she was responsible for casework, teaching, research, and chairing the
Child Abuse Committee. Other duties consisted of Co-chairing the State Advisory Committee on Child Abuse (which drafted the first child abuse statute in Connecticut); organizing the regional committee on Child Abuse and conducting the first Connecticut Parent’s Anonymous group. This was all in three years!

In 1973, Kathy moved to Hamden Mental Health Center. She also became a Member of the new State Advisory Board on Child Abuse and authored “The Private Agency’s Contribution to Child Abuse Prevention”, which was distributed nationally. She was a consultant to community groups and worked on grants and program development for them. She became “The Family Therapist” on “Families”, a tri-weekly program that was broadcast on WNHC,
her local TV station. Also, she wrote a weekly newspaper article on any mental health topic that she thought was important. The goal here was to have a regular Mental Health presence in the community.

It turned out that 1975 was a very important year for Kathy. Most importantly, she met her husband, Robert A. Gelbach (we in the EMDR community know him as the Executive Director of EMDRHAP) and she became the Clinical Director at the Hamden Mental Health Center, where she stayed for 10 years. The clinical staff she supervised saw approximately 7,000 cases per year. She was responsible for the in-service training for the social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists on staff, and directed the clinical training programs for Master and Doctoral level students.

She made sure that her staff was all trained in the modalities that she found helpful: Cognitive Therapy; Bowenian Family Therapy and Gestalt Therapy. She trained Hamden Police officers on Domestic and Child Abuse and Conflict Mediation. She also taught Social Work as an Adjunct Professor at the University of New Haven.

She began her private practice in 1984. Around this time, she also did short term therapy, staff training and development with the Employee Assistance Program at the Hospital of Saint Raphael. When she stopped her EAP work in 1990, she went into full-time private practice.

In the early nineties, Kathy was a Trainer-Consultant for Family owned businesses and a Trainer for Pitney Bowes and Connecticut Transit in Substance Abuse and Family. She also conducted weekly consultation to small private practice and agency groups in Trauma, Child, and Family Therapy.

With this wide range of clinical experience at the individual, family and community levels, Kathy was seeing the range of human suffering. By 1993, after 26 years of service in the mental health field, she was ready – as she says - for “the gift of EMDR.” She was introduced to EMDR by a colleague in her practice, Steve Lazrove. Her immediate response was, “I could not imagine not working hard to make sure that everyone else I could impact would learn about EMDR. It makes it more effective to work in the area of trauma yourself, without burning out.” With this goal in mind, she was interested in learning as much as she could about EMDR. She became a Facilitator of EMDR for the EMDR Institute in 1995, and then went on to become a Trainer in the Basic EMDR Training in 2008 for EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Programs.

Since Kathy’s beginning work with EMDR, she has been involved with many projects, mainly through EMDR HAP. In 2004, Kathy and Leslie Weiss created “Traumatology and Stabilization”, an EMDR Humanitarian Program that is being taught throughout the United States, Turkey, Russia, Philippines and the clergy in American military bases in German. This is a program that is available to all through www.emdrhap.org.

In 2005, Kathy and Leslie worked with Norma Hotaling -who is the founder of SAGE, the San Francisco project to help women leave the sex industry- and Kristie Miller to create a 4-day training program for peer counselors in programs across the nation. This program is funded by the Justice Department Office of Juvenile Justice and has been published as SAGE’s “Trauma and Addiction Recovery Paraprofessional Training Program.” This project marked an important collaboration between EMDR HAP and SAGE.

Currently, Kathy has a busy private practice with children and adults. She is in the process of writing a chapter on the misdiagnosis of Postpartum Depression. She is involved with Kathleen Wheeler on a research project and serves on the Membership Committee for EMDRIA. She continues to be involved as an EMDR Institute Facilitator, EMDRIA Approved Consultant and volunteer EMDR HAP Trainer. As a former Commissioner for the Persons with Disabilities Commission in Hamden, Kathy is also interested in exploring the applications of EMDR to disability-related trauma, whether arising from them original injury, diagnosis and treatment, or discrimination.

When asked what she would like to say to the EMDR community, this was Kathy’s response:

“I consider myself an average clinician who had the good luck to encounter EMDR. Since then, my burning desire has been to get the word out about this amazing psychotherapy. Not only has it helped me personally, but professionally it enabled me to continue to work in an area that I consider most important (trauma) without the burn-out so often the result of long work with traumatized clients. I have tried to take advantage of every opportunity to pursue this goal and have tried to tackle personal issues that stand in the way. The rewards have been great. All you reluctant clinicians out there: Get cracking. Do that research, that speaking engagement, those opportunities that are only yours to do. You will be glad you did.”

Kathy speaks from real experience as she originally had debilitating performance anxiety. She used EMDR for this difficulty and now speaks about EMDR in many different venues and is an EMDR HAP Trainer who speaks in groups up to 100 people. EMDR has been crucial to Kathy’s personal growth in other ways as well, such as returning to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina with the remnants of Hurricane Betsy whistling through her mind
as she remembered this earlier traumatic experience. Working productively to help the survivors of Hurricane Katrina and some of her own work with EMDR was crucial to the transformation of this old experience and dealing with the new one.

Kathy is also the mother of Scott, Rebecca, Jonah, and Amy. She and Bob are avid birders and enjoy the outdoor sports of biking, camping, and hiking. She enjoys reading and is a print-maker, creating mono-prints and etchings in an impressionistic style.

Katherine Davis is a versatile woman who exemplifies the wealth of experience that is in this EMDR community. She continues to engage the credo of her family and the military community in which her father served by her dedication, her service, and her passion. There is no better legacy to pass on to her family, her clients, her community, her country, and the world.


“A Community of Heart: Kathy E. B. Davis,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed July 15, 2024, https://francineshapirolibrary.omeka.net/items/show/25412.

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