Using Tenkara to facilitate trauma therapy

Tony, that in a nutshell is how I fish. I never really enjoy sight casting as much as blind casting. There is something more magical about targeting a dark corner of a pool that appears as a void.

For me the joy of fishing is more about the immersion in nature, the improvisation, and the surprise of what happens during an outing.

Fish counts and trophy hunting have never been in my wheelhouse, and I feel that those objectives may pollute some of the more enriching aspects of the experience. If you have the bandwidth, I would open the experience up to any one interested. I know that is not your objective, but in general many anglers overlook the real treasure of the experience. Being in nature, enjoying the moment, and accepting whatever the environment shares with you.

Good luck with your program and keep us posted on how it unfolds.


@Gressak , thank you. The experience really is open to anyone as it’s a form of therapy. I have a website at, which you are free to share, and I am happy to work with anyone who wants to come up to Vermont for a fly fishing and EMDR therapy retreat. COVID is getting more under control, so I’m planning out into the summer. Thank you!

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@Adam_Trahan … sure thing, and thank you! I will use this thread for any updates. I appreciate the enthusiasm and support. Thanks again!


Hey, so just throwing this in here if people are interested and want to support. The EMDR & fly fishing (tenkara) retreats are not reimbursable by health insurance, so I’m creating some funding streams to help create scholarships for first responders and front line workers who want to attend one (uniformed service professionals are kind of my “population” as a therapist). The scholarships can also help fund virtual or in-person intensive EMDR retreats as well if there is a need for that. The first way is through this Threadless shop. Also… to clear up any thoughts about cultural appropriation, the name Seiyu and the related kanji are directly related to me and my family.

Thanks for the support so far in this conversation!!


@tonyp I am a US Marine combat veteran who benefited immensely from EMRD treatment. That was back in 2004/5. Now my wife is trained in EMDR (she is a U.S. Navy Psychologist). God willing we will be moving to Connecticut this summer, perhaps we could connect once I have moved and do some fishing together.

A few months ago my wife discovered your site (I think through her EMDR training program actually) and shared it with me. Fascinating stuff really and I agree with you that the method is radical and certainly mind blowing. Tenkara has a great rhythm that makes it great for this type of therapy IMHO.

Thank you for sharing here too. I wish you all the best in this endeavor.


@FallfishTenkara … I am humbled and flattered. It’s nice to meet another vet. USAF vet here. I also ran across your site some time ago and was touched that it seemed like you may be fishing the section of Tamagawa where I lived and where my family lives (I lived at Ushihama, in the Kumagawa village of Fussa-shi and my in-laws are all around the Fuchu area of Tokyo). I could also be totally wrong on the pictures that I saw on your site :slight_smile: . I reached out to you then, I think, but I don’t know where that went. It means a lot that you would have found my own website some how.

That’s awesome that your wife is an EMDR trained therapist. If you found my site through her training institute, she must be a Parnell EMDR therapist? I was trained by Laurel Parnell (creator of attachment-focused EMDR) and I have a therapist and consultant profile on the Parnell Institute website (though, I haven’t updated that with anything about fishing). Tenkara for EMDR outdoors is a no brainer, and it helps remove so many things that create a learning curve for regular fly fishing and would get in the way of therapy. I’m still kind of amazed that I could not find any EMDR and fly fishing integrations out there when I started this - but hopefully there are more to come. When the paper comes out, I’ll share it here. I am also happy to consult with and train your wife in it. It was developed within the context of treating combat-related PTSD since most literature on therapeutic fly fishing programs is focused on military veterans. It’s honestly not so complicated for someone comfortable with EMDR.

I’d love to connect with you when you come to New England. I am in Southern VT, less than 2 hours from most places in CT… and New Haven, CT has the best pizza in the US. Let’s connect!

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Hi Tony - This is so intriguing! I returned to the field last summer after 19 years away. I work in community mental health (and fish tenkara) in east TN, and models for treating trauma are a regular topic in conversations with my clinical supervisor. He’s big on mind-body, somatic experiencing, and internal family systems among others, and he pushes me to look beyond utility to find the model(s) I am passionate about, so this post really caught my attention. I’ve learned just a bit about EMDR from colleagues, and would love to stay in touch and keep exploring. Please add me to any email list etc. Would also love to read your paper when published and track with developments as the model rolls out. Thanks!

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This topic is, in my opinion, one of the best that has ever been on this forum. As most of us know, tenkara has not been immune to the tribalism and fighting with those who are different than we are, that plagues the world in which we live. This topic turns that on it’s head.

Those who know me well often define me as an existential misanthrope. This topic gives me a small glimmer of hope in humanity. As someone currently working on trauma recovery myself, I can attest as others have here, to how much it positively changes your life. Tenkara has been a place of healing and peace for me and seeing the two combined is brilliant.

Thank you.


Well said Peder. I am super excited about the idea and it’s application. Getting to know Tony on a personal level, I know this will be well thought out and impactful for people.


Hi Brad… thank you so much for the encouragement and enthusiasm. Your supervisor sounds like someone who I’d get along with JUST based on clinical interests. IFS-informed EMDR is something that I practice, along with focusing strongly on the somatic aspects of EMDR. That is actually a big part of the Seiyu-zuri method. I’d love to keep in touch… especially if you learn EMDR and want to incorporate this model into your practice!

And Peder… thank you for sharing about your experiences and how they relate to this topic. I’m really touched by the conversations that have come in response to my post and the support from folks is extremely humbling. I’m also glad that so many people here really understand how integrating the two makes sense. Tenkara is meditation first, for my own personal use of it, and it sounds like many of us connect on that part.

Jason… so awesome connecting to you. Therapists who Tenkara is going to be the next Oscar winning (flex) action film… rated 6:4? Next will come Tenkara musicians, playing in unison but each to the time signature of their favorite rods (6:4, 7:3, 5:5) :wink:


That is quite amazing that you lived so close to that section of the Tama that I fished. What are the chances? Quite high I would say… The day I fished there was also the first time I tried corn chowder in a can from the vending machine とても美味しい :yum:

Please do, we would like to read it :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

The pizza sounds like a must, I will be sure to let you know when I move out there and we can grab a pie and talk about Japan, tenkara, and your program!

Thanks Isaac! Let’s message privately. I’d love to know more about your connection to my neighborhoods. And Connecticut pizza… be ready to have your mind blown as much as those two words (Connecticut + pizza) do not go together AT ALL. I’d start to talk more about this, but we should really devote a completely new thread to that :slight_smile:

Oh… and hot, canned corn soup. I’ve never quite been a fan - but Japan does love corn! Corn on pizza? I’m more of a scalding hot canned coffee guy myself. It will be 35 degreed Celcius in August with 100% humidity, and you’ll still find me near the Keio Line hunting for the one vending machine with the red bar for hot drinks. Always carry a towel.