A Community of Heart Profile: Emre Konuk



Emre Konuk is a man of service. Since he was a young man, he has been interested in understanding and improving the human condition and thought he would write about human nature when he got older. However, as he matured, he followed in his parent's footsteps and used his natural gifts and experience to better the human condition. Emre's roots go back to the Ottoman Empire. His father's family came to Bursa and farmed the land. Emre's father, Abdurrahman Konuk, was the 8th child and first son of a religious family. Abdurrahman went to Istanbul for high school and university and then to the Sorbonne to study law. In Paris, he found many Turkish poets and writers who influenced him and contributed to his lifelong interest in learning and thought-provoking discussion. He returned to Istanbul to teach at the American Girl's High School, where he met his future wife, Faliha Isim. Faliha's extended family lived together in a large house in Istanbul where they drank alcohol, played instruments, sang, played jokes on each other and brought up their children. The marriage between Adurrahman and Faliha created an interesting merger between the religious and modern worlds of Turkey. Due to Abdurrahman's unique kills and experience, the Turkish Prime Minister asked him to join Parliament where he was instrumental in crafting the major laws and reform to assist in the modernization of Turkey. After four years in politics, Emre's father returned to Bursa to practice law. His mother, fascinated by the arts, brought Bursa with them by creating a woman's association and inviting writers, poets, musicians, thinkers and scientists to give speeches, lectures and workshops. Emre often stayed with his grandmother in Istanbul while his parents were travelling. More of an introvert and already a thinker, he made room in a large cupboard to gain his privacy! Emre's early cultural experience fostered his awareness of politics, Turkey and the world. He went to the English High School in Istanbul and learned to read and write English, a skill that opened many opportunities for him. He was attracted to the theater as a way to think about, write and portray the human condition. He acted in a professional theater from age 14 - 17, going to school in the morning and acting in 6:00pm and 9:00pm shows. He found the artists there were different than the ones who congregated at his home for long discussion about politics and art. Although his new friends were fine actors and poets, he found this drug and alcohol-based lifestyle resulted in more personal than philosophical discussions. Ultimately, Emre rejected this scene and chose psychology to deepen his understanding of human nature. He moved to a half-a-day high school, started a kindergarten program and attended courses at the university. In 1973, he received his BA in Psychology from Istanbul University during a politically tumultuous time. Although he was involved with the protests and tried to stop the violence there, he realized the authorities were using the students and that there would be a military coup, so he pulled back from the demonstrations. When Emre was 14, while searching for documents concerning the first Turkish Civil Law, he met a man whom he learned later was a Sufi Master of the Cerrahi Order (Sheikh Muzaffer Efendi). During their initial meeting, the Sheikh expressed interest in the books he carried about Eastern Philosophy. They often sat at a local coffee house or shop and discussed Zen Buddhism and Sufism. Emre absorbed the Sufi and Zen Buddhist teachings that became seminal in his understanding of human nature and freedom; you have to live with commitment but without being so attached that you cannot do without the object. To Emre, this is the essence of freedom and he has integrated this into his practice of psychotherapy. Emre suffered from chronic pain in his hips, lower back and body and was later diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (an autoimmune problem similar to Rheumatism). He moved to Foca on the Mediterranean and worked four months a year at a tourist shop he owned. He exercised his talent for organizing, teaching and forming community by engaging approximately 2000 women to make Turkish handmade dresses for export until 1981. Emre ended up selling his business by the sea to study therapy at the Mental Research Institute (MRI) in Palo Alto, from John Weakland, Paul Watzlawick and Richard Fisch. In 1985, when he returned to Istanbul, he established The Institute for Behavioral Studies (DBE Davran???? Bilimleri Enstit??s??), even though there was only one other therapist in Istanbul. Emre gave workshops in Family Therapy and found that students and universities were hungry for this information. Over time, the interested students grew into an educated team of professionals. Currently, there are 15 therapists and many students and supervisees. DBE functions in two major areas: therapy and management consulting. In the therapy sector, DBE provides research, training and psychological services to individuals, couples, families and the community through three centers (Child and Adolescent Center; Adult and Family Center; and Trauma Center). The Institute is recognized for adapting and developing innovative approaches in mental health ractice, research, training professionals and students. They are involved in many social responsibility projects: trauma training for professionals, military personnel, municipalities and hospitals; organizing congresses on trauma; crisis intervention for emergencies and disasters; marriage preparation to strengthen the relationship and manage potentially problematic areas of couples; screening gifted and at risk children and adolescents in the school system and training school counselors and therapists to appropriately intervene; and hiring and training 70 graduates in EMDR, supervision and Family Therapy to provide service to 35 Women's Health Centers throughout Istanbul for economically disadvantaged people. Through DBE's Management Consulting arm, the Institute is involved in the following areas: assessment and evaluation projects that can be done online for recruitment and selection of employees and employee/customer satisfaction and 360surveys; performance improvement in business; Human Resource projects such as competency modeling and performance evaluations systems; employee assistance programs providing psychological counseling and trainings/workshops for the employees and their families; 15 trainings including basic managerial skills, coaching training, competency based interviews, hiring, etc.; and coaching managers, executives, team leaders, artists, etc. In 1996, Emre attended Bogazici University and earned an MA in Clinical Psychology. Emre grew interested in EMDR while at the Mental Research Institute and followed its progress in the literature. By 1995, when Francine Shapiro's first EMDR book, EMDR: Basic Principles, Protocols and Procedures, was published, Emre thought that this was "serious business" and decided to bring Jim Knipe to DBE to learn more about it. While he was arranging the finances for training, the 1999 Marmara Earthquake occurred. As President of the Turkish Psychological Association (Istanbul Branch), he realized they did not know how to work with trauma. He contacted Jim Knipe and Robbie Dunton immediately asking for help. He then asked, "Who does know about recent trauma and/or earthquake survivors?" He reasoned that practitioners in Israel and Los Angeles would and through colleagues contacted experts in these areas. Four Israeli trauma specialists arrived and gave a five day seminar on trauma response to 100 participants. Emre closed DBE and used it for training. Turkish colleagues retooled this training to address cultural differences and taught 600 students to use these techniques. On a weekly basis, a group went to the tent cities and worked with survivors. They distributed 200,000 booklets on trauma to survivors, gave many seminars and workshops and did early intervention and group work there. In post-earthquake Turkey, finances were a challenge. Ever resourceful, Emre approached businessmenwith a proposal for an exchange of services: hotel rooms for hotel staff trainings in conflict management or leadership trainings, recognition in the newspapers and 16 free tickets on Turkish Airlines for staff in exchange for help with airline VIPs with flying phobias. He requested assistance from the Orthodox Church and 50 embassies and the Church and 10 embassies contributed. In October 1999, the first EMDR training occurred in Turkey, two months after the earthquake. Ever cognizant of his colleagues' needs, Emre requested they increase the training to five days to include a Psychotraumatology seminar. Jim Knipe and Philip Manfield came 10 days earlier and worked with real survivors in the tent cities using EMDR while the sessions were recorded. His staff then edited and translated the tapes to use during EMDR training so that the examples were relevant for the participants. Due to the need for translation, he arranged for a 6:1 ratio of participant to facilitator. After the training, Emre invited supervisors to come every two weeks to continue the work; this was done for a year. It was a grueling schedule as therapists got up early, traveled 2-3 hours to the earthquake area, worked all day supervising the therapists there and returned. Many kilos were lost during this time. In two years, EMDR staff trained 250 mental health workers who worked for 2-3 years in the area and treated many thousands of survivors. The average session number was 5.2. The practitioners were inexperienced students and were taught well by the trainers and facilitators; they worked carefully and responsibly. Emre thinks that this is a model that can work well for developing countries. Emre, with members of DBE, continue to work on projects to improve the lives of those in their community. With funding from the EU as well as the Women's Health Centers, they have partnered with Portugal, Greece and EMDR Europe to train mental health providers and consultants in the EMDR Basic Training and Family Therapy. In November 2011, a center for sexually and physically abused children and adolescents was established in Turkey. Forty-five professionals working for the Child Protection Agency and Police Department will give therapy both in the center and in their own centers. Emre is the President of EMDR Turkey and an EMDR Europe Board member. There are 650 EMDR-trained practitioners in Turkey and 8 Facilitators. Emre is doing his Trainer's Training so that EMDR training will be in Turkish. He writes a weekly column on psychology for a well-established newspaper in Turkey (SABAH). Emre is the Program Director for the Couples and Family Therapy Certificate Program at Bilgi University and completed the IFTA accredited supervision program. He also has presented and published about his work on a range of subjects from treatment of Migraines to Couples Therapy to EMDR and many more. To the EMDR Community: EMDR has its own vision and mission. Technically, it is about working with trauma and trauma is the basis of what is negative in the world. Trauma is widespread and goes across cultures and history. When I attend conferences across disciplines, I find EMDR conferences are different. Usually, people come, present their papers and workshops, you attend and learn a lot. What makes EMDR clinicians different than others is their mission to do something in the world. When your job is a major part of your life, this adds to your clients' wellbeing. If it is not meaningful, you are unmotivated and consumed with retiring. After people absorb the spirit of EMDR, they have a meaningful life and that is very nice! In Emre's low-key manner, he accomplishes his objective strategically and thoroughly. Whether it is working with a patient with a migraine, translating the MMPI into Turkish and validating it, or persuading Turkish psychiatrists about the benefits of EMDR, when Emre sets a goal, he accomplishes it or mobilizes those who can. Most importantly, he will do it with heart.


“A Community of Heart Profile: Emre Konuk,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed July 15, 2024, https://francineshapirolibrary.omeka.net/items/show/7668.

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