A Community of Heart Profile: John Hartung



It was in the early days of EMDR that I first met John Hartung. He always had a sparkle in his eye and he was interesting and enthusiastic. Over the years I have found out what an amazing teacher and what a wonderful friend he is.

John is a man of quiet grace and fierce passions. Growing up on a farm in Minnesota (I knew I recognized that accent!), John’s interest in cultural diversity was nourished by his fascination with the Mexican farm workers who had migrated to that state. He attended The St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, graduating in 1964 with a BA in Philosophy and English. Several days before he completed his degree, John signed up for the Peace Corps where he served in St. Louis, MO, Puerto Rico, Barra Colorado and San Jose, Costa Rica, Texas, and Mexico. During that time, he was a Peace Corps volunteer in rural community development, a vocational instructor in a juvenile correctional facility, and a trainer for Peace Corps Volunteers. It was during his work in the Peace Corps that John discovered many of the principles that would inform the way that he worked with his fellow human beings.

He learned that the key to human harmony is to empower those you serve with what you know, and have them empower you with what they know. As John put it, “The trick is to get over giving something back because that ruins the experience for everybody.” When we try to make something tangible in order “to leave something behind”, we push people to build something that they are not ready to do, really, as a monument to ourselves rather than to fulfill their needs. The idea is “not to do things for people that they can do for themselves’’.

John loved the life of a traveler and decided to join the Agency for International Development in Costa Rica when he finished his term in the Peace Corps in 1967. He was the Program Chief for an Alliance for Progress Program associated with the Costa Rican Community Development Ministry. John developed a bi-lateral program between the United States and Costa Rica. He placed many Costa Ricans on the Board to promote their becoming organized in order to help themselves. Through this program, members of his team would help with the first project such as a new road, or bridge or electrification or pure water. His job was to help people coordinate the services, however, it was up to the people to contact the Ministry of Transportation and have it happen in a timely fashion. John thrived in an atmosphere where he could help create an environment from which people could develop their own power. Here, he continued what he had learned in the Peace Corps about human nature. When he came across a sign that read, “Brought to you by the goodness of the American people”, he would dismantle it and replace it with a sign that said, “Developed by the efforts of the local people. And help from the people of the United States.” He said that he took the first sign down because “it was unkind.” People’s efforts are their own and it is important to take pride in what they do.

A turning point came for John at a Community Meeting when the group was talking about building a bridge. When people looked at him for the answer, he realized that he did not yet understand group dynamics well enough. It was time to continue his education.

John returned to the United States to study Psychology at the University of Minnesota for 2 semesters in 1969 so that he could apply for graduate work in this field. From there, he was admitted to the MA program in Counseling Psychology at The Ohio State University at Columbus and completed this degree in December 1971. During that time, he worked for the Group for Behavior Study and Consultation where he was a health Planning Consultant to Southwestern Ohio communities. He went on at this University to complete the Ph.D. course work and Comprehensive Examinations.

Although John started several dissertation topics, it was not the right time to finish and he took off for the Indian Reservation where he worked at Children’s Village/Family Service in Devils Lake, North Dakota. While he was there, he was the Agency Coordinator, a group and family psychotherapist, and team member of a pioneering Federal Human Services pilot program.

John’s next adventure took him to Colorado Springs and Adult Forensic Services. This was a pioneering Community Corrections Program and John served as a Psychologist working with Outpatient and Residential offender-clients. He assisted with Program Planning and Staff Training. Also, after moving, in September 1977, he began his independent practice of Clinical and Consulting Psychology, offering customary assessment and treatment services, supervising doctoral-level psychology students, consulting with agencies and assisting in research.

Planning to stay in Colorado Springs, John attended the Psy.D. Program in Clinical Psychology at the University of Denver and was awarded his degree in August 1982. It was during this same year that John traveled to China and completed a photo essay on Mainland China that was published in the Colorado Springs Sun titled Chinese Respect ‘Personal Space.

Since September 1983, John has been involved with The University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. For the first 10 years, he taught as an honorarium Psychology Professor and, currently, he is on the campus-based Trauma Treatment Center Board.

After several years of clinical work, John felt that something was missing. He took to his bicycle and made the grand tour of Europe.

In 1989, John was part of the Council for the International Exchange of Scholars of the Fulbright Commission and went to Lima, Peru where he was a Fulbright Senior Scholar at the Peruvian Universities of San Marcos, Cayetano Heredia, La Catolica and Andina. To put it in perspective, John told me that the University of San Marcos is as old as Harvard University.

When John returned from his Fulbright, he joined The Center for Creative Leadership. According to John, this was one of several experiences that changed and enriched his professional life. Coaching was a brand new field at that time and opened a door for John into the mysterious ways of the business world…a new frontier. John began to appreciate “the fascinating ways psychology can help to improve things in business.” The Center is the world’s largest institution devoted to leadership research and education. John is a member of the Adjunct Staff as an Executive Coach and Group Facilitator. Also, he consults with the Center’s affiliate TEAM in Mexico City.

In 1992, EMDR inspired John to return to the clinical psychology world. He joined the EMDR Institute Staff in 1992 and went on to pioneer the EMDR Institute Spanish-speaking team as a Senior Trainer and conducts Standard Trainings in EMDR internationally. Both John and Francine Shapiro shared the dream of EMDR being taught by colleagues in their own countries and in their own languages.

Later in the 90’s, John grew more interested in energy work as taught by Fred Gallo. He has taken training in this area and has incorporated this work into the whole of his process.

John’s work in the Peace Corps and AID in Central America, on the Indian Reservation in North Dakota, in the communities of Ohio and Colorado Springs, in the University in Peru, Coaching for CCL and traveling the globe have all contributed to his exquisite understanding of how to support people, both individually and in groups, to reach their highest potentials. The work that he does now combines his many passions (Team building, EMDR and Energy work): “The unexpected piece was how the three could be combined. I have to say I combine them every day I train in Latin America. We do clinical work and team building. Every time we teach a course, we are developing a local team. It has been a lot of fun. If it were just clinical, I would just be training clinicians. If I were just training leaders, it would not be as motivating. But, training leaders to train about trauma! This has been an amazing synchronicity and very unexpected!”

When I asked John what he would like to say to the EMDR community, he responded with the following:

“What can you do to encourage people to be culturally sensitive? You must keep two things in mind. First continue to look for the principles and the ingredients that are applicable all over the world. Those are the unifying principles of human change. The second is to always look for ways that those principles need to be translated so that they can be received and adapted by these different cultural groups. The communalities are what keep us going as a gift to the world. The differences are what we keep examining. If we do not do that, we are not tailoring and personalizing what we do. The local groups are different by vocation, experience, and DSM terms that are not used in this country.”

We spend much time selecting and preparing the students to make sure the foundation that we take for granted -like an understanding of trauma and dissociation- is in place. During the training, we have our manuals in binders so that we can easily change whatever needs to be changed. We change our teaching style and text to make it user friendly. Trainings are not effective when we impose our ways. Follow-up is crucial. We put money, time and energy into our team building and follow-up through on-going support.”

The interaction that John shares with his colleagues is a central focus for him. The dynamic that is created as he shares the building of the South and Central American teams to teach other health professionals about trauma is what makes the experiences worthwhile for him.

In June 2002, John founded the Colorado Center for Alternative Psychology. Through this Center, he teaches non-traditional and innovative psychotherapies to professionals and non-professionals in Europe, Asia and the Americas. John and Michael Galvin just completed their book, “Energy psychology and EMDR: Combining forces to optimize treatment” for Norton Professional Books. They are proud of the work that they are doing and look forward to further collaboration exploring these fascinating methods of working. John’s writing continues in collaboration with Ligia Barascout de Piedra Santa and Esly Carvalho in their edited text: “El uso de EMDR en las Americas Latinas: casos clinicos e investigacion cientifica (in preparation).”

And then there is his passion for biking…John continues to bike as often as he can. In 1993, he and Michael Galvin rode from the beginning of the Santiago Trail in Paris to its completion in Spain. They wrote two articles on their experiences: “The Way: Pilgrims on tour in France” (Bike Report, 1993) and “Pilgrims on tour in Spain: A thousand miles, a thousand years” (The Bent Fork Chronicles, 2002, www.bikespring.org).

His relationship with his wife Nikki and his stepson and grandchildren, Cole and Natalie, wonderfully round out John’s professional life. As John says about his grandchildren, “They are the centers of our lives.”

John Hartung: teacher, team builder, bicyclist, clinician, and friend. We are glad that you are a vitally active part of our community.


“A Community of Heart Profile: John Hartung,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed July 15, 2024, https://francineshapirolibrary.omeka.net/items/show/7661.

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