Survey Monkey Audit of Attachment-Focused EMDR in Action

-NB – this survey is now closed, but we’ve left it posted here for background info.

Welcome if you’ve landed here as a UK- or Ireland-based EMDR therapist responding to an invitation on JISCmail to take part in a new research project/reflective practice audit of Attachment-Focused EMDR (AF-EMDR) as developed and trained by Dr Laurel Parnell (USA).

To take part in the survey as an EMDR therapist, whether or not you are personally trained in the use of AF-EMDR, please click this link.

Contributions are anonymous and cannot be traced back to any individual respondent or computer.

Results will be collated by Mark Brayne as lead researcher, for preliminary presentation at the forthcoming London Conference of the EMDR Association UK and Ireland (Friday March 24, 1330-1445). A summary will be posted here after the conference.

For background, please find included below the original proposal for a presentation at the conference, adjusted in Feb 2018 to allow for new developments on the research design.

Below that is the key and relevant text from Mark Brayne’s successful application for ethical approval for this research from the University of Worcester, with the support of Senior Lecturer and President of the EMDR Association UK & Ireland Dr Derek Farrell.

Paper as submitted for presentation at March 2018 National Conference of the EMDR Association UK & Ireland

Dr Laurel Parnell’s model of “Attachment-Focused EMDR” has gained wide currency among EMDR practitioners in the US and the UK especially.

Many UK-based therapists speak of the liberation they experience for their practice on encountering this approach.

At the same time, the Parnell model has caused controversy and confusion, at times both (mis)presented and (mis)understood as a significant deviation from the 8-phase/3-prong EMDR Standard Protocol.

Drawing on fresh new research involving EMDR Europe-accredited Consultants, some 70 EMDR practitioners and approaching 50 personal clients, the presenter offers this forum as a space to explore how Dr Parnell’s modifications (including imaginal resourcing, target identification, interweaves and session structure) might be seen as a valuable and legitimate development of Standard EMDR Therapy Protocols for appropriate and more complex trauma presentations.

With the redefinition of PTSD (and C-PTSD) in both ICD-11 and the DSM-V, and EMDR trainings and supervision in the US and Europe increasingly embracing EMDR Therapy as a comprehensive treatment model for trauma- and attachment-related client dysfunction, the forum will explore the experience of both therapists and clients of using imaginal nurturing/protector and wisdom figures in Phase 2 resourcing, and of proactive Bridging in Phase 3 to target the root causes of clients’ presenting distress.

The forum will also consider what might be considered model-compliant modifications to Phase 3 Assessment/Activation, and the richest range of relational and transpersonal interweaves which – appropriately managed – can enhance Adaptive Information Processing.

Learning objectives:

  1. Critically consider Dr Parnell’s Attachment-Focused model, its use in actual therapy, and how it can be applied and integrated within Standard-Protocol EMDR therapy for more complex clients.
  2. Demonstrate how clients can be helped to build an imaginal team of support resource figures, even when both therapist and client are unfamiliar with such work.
  3. Demonstrate the value of proactive Bridging to identify attachment-related childhood targets most relevant to a client’s presenting issue.
  4. Critically consider the use of imagination and intuition in bringing transpersonal awareness into work with clients.
  5. Evaluate an individual, integrated and personal approach to the use of EMDR Therapy which accords both with the research-endorsed Standard Procedural Steps and the therapist’s own core model.

Research Proposal as approved by University of Worcester Ethics Committee Dec 2017.

EMDR Therapy (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) is now a well-proven and widely-used and -recommended (c.f. NICE, WHO and other national health regulation bodies worldwide) psychotherapeutic approach for the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

At the same time, practitioners and clinicians trained in this approach are finding (c.f. mutliple research projects in the UK, Europe and USA) that EMDR therapy appears to be effective also in the treatment of a wide range of psychological conditions such as Depression, Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Eating Disorders and more, all of which are increasingly understood as having their roots in dysfunctional development experiences in earlier childhood, notably in the quality of attachment to primary caregivers.

While the Standard EMDR Protocol as it is known (SP) has been comprehensively validated for the treatment of single-incident adult onset PTSD, EMDR literature (including EMDR’s Founder Francine Shapiro in the third edition of her standard EMDR Manual) is paying increasing attention to the importance of a client-centred, relational and attachment-informed focus on clients’ trauma presentation.

For the past 20 years, another leading figure in the international EMDR Community, Dr Laurel Parnell, has been writing (with five books published so far, notably her 2013 manual on Attachment-Focused EMDR – or AF-EMDR) of the need, when working with complex trauma, for:

  • a greater emphasis on the resourcing of clients before trauma processing and Dual Attention Stimulus begins (for example with imaginary nurturing, protector and wisdom figures);
  • the more proactive use of what she terms Bridging to identify the attachment-related roots of presenting symptoms;
  • a simplification of the Standard Protocol’s Phase Three Activation of  a trauma memory;
  • and a more proactive role for the therapist in supporting the client with imaginal interweaves.

While Dr Parnell’s books and training courses are widely popular among frontline practitioners of EMDR in the UK dealing with the most complex client presentations, her work has been criticised by some in the international EMDR community as inconsistent with the underlying principles of Shapiro’s Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model, and as somehow “not proper EMDR.”

The aim of this research project is to explore the felt and lived experience of EMDR Europe-Consultants in the UK and Ireland themselves using and supervising the practice of AF-EMDR.

The proposal is for a heuristically-based qualitative research project (cf Moustakas) led by Mark Brayne as one such accredited Consultant, holding semi-structured interviews with between 6-10 fellow EMDR Europe-accredited Consultants, who will be invited to join the project as co-researchers.

Interviews will be transcribed and analysed for overlapping themes, with new areas highlighted for further research to underpin and inform best practice EMDR Therapy in the treatment of complex, attachment-related trauma.

(NB. As of February 20, these interviews have now all been conducted and, alongside the results of the above Survey Monkey questionnaire and a second survey of private EMDR clients, will form the backbone of the March Conference presentation.)

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