Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a powerful and effective therapy for the treatment of trauma. EMDR therapy incorporates eye movements or other bilateral stimulation into a comprehensive approach that processes and releases information trapped in the mind and body, freeing people from disturbing images and body sensations, debilitating emotions, and restrictive beliefs. This revolutionary therapy has helped millions of clients of all ages recover from such traumas as war, accidents, assaults, disasters, and childhood abuse. EMDR has been extensively researched as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and is considered to be an evidence-based therapy.
In addition to the treatment of PTSD, EMDR is also used to treat the psychological effects of smaller traumas that manifest in symptoms of depression, anxiety, phobias, low self-esteem, creativity blocks, and relationship difficulties. Not only does healing occur much more rapidly than in traditional therapy, but as a result of EMDR’s clearing of emotional and physical blockages, many people also experience a sense of joy, openness, and deep connection with others. EMDR is a quantum leap in the human ability to heal trauma and maladaptive beliefs.
What is Attachment-Focused EMDR?
Attachment-focused EMDR (AF-EMDR) is client-centered and emphasizes a reparative therapeutic relationship using a combination of (1) Resource Tapping™ (Parnell, 2008) to strengthen clients and repair developmental deficits, (2) EMDR to process traumas, and (3) talk therapy to help integrate the information from EMDR sessions and to provide the healing derived from therapist-client interactions.
AF-EMDR extends the use and benefits of EMDR and bilateral stimulation for use with clients who have been typically less responsive to traditional EMDR protocols, due to acute or chronic relational trauma and attachment deficits. Those deficits include the effects of childhood physical or sexual abuse, neglect, early losses, birth trauma, medical trauma, parental drug or alcohol abuse, caregiver misattunement, secondary trauma, and the cumulative effects of all. These clients often present in therapy as depressed, with relationship difficulties or problems at work. They don’t feel fully alive. Childhood trauma has impacted their sense of safety and capacity to form close emotional relationships in adulthood.
Drawing from her extensive clinical experience, Dr. Parnell found that in order to work more successfully with this population, it is important to incorporate an attachment-repair orientation to all phases of EMDR work. She found that by making adjustments to the EMDR phases and procedural steps, clients experienced more complete resolution.
Dr. Parnell pursued her attachment-based method based on her belief that all good therapy is an art, not a technique. With emphasis on the importance of the therapist-client relationship, she states that, “…as we are able to drop into a place of silence and really listen to our own quiet voice and that of our clients, relational healing takes place.” In her book Attachment-Focused EMDR: Healing Relational Trauma and her workshops, she outlines the basic principles of what she finds to be most valuable and important in Attachment-Focused EMDR, but hopes to stimulate each therapist’s imagination and creativity when working with clients.
Parnell, L. and D. J. Siegel (2013). Attachment-focused EMDR: Healing relational trauma. New York ; London, W.W. Norton & Company.Parnell, L. and D. J. Siegel (2013). Attachment-focused EMDR: Healing relational trauma. New York ; London, W.W. Norton & Company.