Attachment-Informed EMDR Practice Group – learning together

By Marie Tierney

One of the challenges for therapists on any training is bringing the learning home and finding a way to integrate it into existing practice.

Following completion of Mark Brayne’s Attachment-Informed EMDR Workshop at the end of June 2020, some participants posted messages on Whatsapp looking for practice partners:

“Hi everyone. If anyone would like to practice EMDR I would be happy to pair up”

“I’d also like to ‘pair up’ if anyone wants to form a pair or even a small group”

With these messages, a seed was planted, leading to the formation of an Attachment-Informed EMDR practice group, meeting for the first time one week later on July 4.

Judith prepared the ground by setting up a Zoom meeting open to all who expressed an interest. Big gratitude to you for your responsiveness and flexibility dear Judith!

Since that initial meeting, our group of six has met 12 times in total for practice and peer support. We met weekly for the first three weeks, and have continued to meet every two weeks on Saturday mornings, for an hour and a half.

The format is simple. We check-in for 15 minutes, then split into two practice triads meeting in breakout rooms for an hour, before coming back together for the final 15 minutes.

Mostly the focus is on practising and learning the Attachment-Informed Protocols taught by Mark in the training. We also use the time to chat, getting to know and support each other when that is needed.

The group is self-organising. Initially hosted and facilitated by the lovely Judith, an experienced EMDR Consultant, we recently agreed to share the tasks involved in running the group such as hosting the Zoom meeting, sending out the meeting notice and Zoom link, and facilitating the group.

During a recent meeting we spent time exploring how the group has been working to date and group dynamics. There was broad agreement that everyone was enjoying the group and the opportunity to practice.
We also explored the possibility of expanding the group to practise other protocols, share training events or highlights from training attended, and for peer supervision.

Mark has been encouraging and supportive, dropping in to say Hello, to answer questions and provide clarification on several occasions. Generous with his time and expertise, he also provides support by e-mail.

Who we are

Our group includes accredited Consultants, accredited Practitioners and EMDR therapists. Some of us work in the NHS and some in private practice. Our core training includes CBT, person-centred and integrative psychotherapy. We are an international group – our members are British, Irish and Russian.

What we do

This group provides a safe place to practise as a therapist, experience Attachment-Informed EMDR as a client and learn from others as an observer in our practice triads.

The emphasis to date has been on practising Laurel Parnell’s Simplified Protocol, and other protocols adapted and developed by Mark including the intergenerational, dreams, and transfer of perspective.

It has been invaluable to see how others use the protocols and integrate them with different therapeutic approaches.

We have respectfully discussed and debated our different ways of following protocols. The group is also a supportive space to discuss how we are integrating Attachment-Informed EMDR and protocols into clinical practice, to ask questions about cases, to share resources and learning with each other.

And, we have contributed to the development of protocols. For example, at one meeting Mark made some amendments in real-time on the screen to his Transfer of Perspective and Intergenerational protocols following suggestions from the group.

He shared the updated protocols with us by e-mail, on the day he delivered his keynote at the Parnell Institute Conference in October 2020. Although we didn’t attend the conference, we were right there at the cutting edge with him, sharing in his enthusiasm and excitement!

My experience of the group and what I have learned

After completing Level 3 basic EMDR training in March 2020, I felt a little overwhelmed, and sought out more training to help me learn and integrate EMDR into clinical practice.

As a deeply relational therapist I felt drawn to explore Laurel Parnell’s Attachment-Focused approach. This led me to sign up for Mark Brayne’s Attachment-Informed training with the intention of learning how to use Mark’s Intergenerational Protocol.

I have to admit that I approached the workshop with some trepidation. I had seen a video of Mark working with Jamie Marich, and felt nervous at how quickly he seemed to work.

I needn’t have worried ,as the training was superb, and I learned so much. The biggest bonus was discovering for myself what a genuinely nice guy Mark is, knowledgeable, caring, non-shaming, supportive and encouraging.

The peer practice group has been wonderful, and also at times challenging, as we are six strong characters who came together without knowing each other.

My objective was to practise and deepen my experience of Attachment-Informed EMDR including the approaches to working with intergenerational trauma, dreams and parts taught by Mark in his workshop.

We agreed to practise in triads, rotating the role of therapist, client and observer, giving everyone a chance to do our own work, observe others’ way of working and even be observed, invariably a challenging experience.

In the group I experience a generosity of spirit, individually and collectively. I love how the group has developed into a support group as well as a peer practice group. I really appreciate the depth and breadth of experience which we share. I also value the caring e-mails I have received, checking in on me after I’ve done some work as a client.

I feel grateful when my fellow therapist is forgiving of my clumsiness and mistakes in learning the protocol. She inspires me to be more patient and tolerant with her, with others and with myself. It’s live and its real, all done on Zoom.

Beyond having the opportunity to practice and develop as an EMDR therapist the group has become my EMDR family and sisters, a valued source of support during lockdown.

I have a special interest in working with intergenerational trauma. Mark’s intergenerational protocol reminds me of the Internal Family Systems (IFS) approach to working with legacy burdens, and also of Thomas Huebl’s approach to working with collective trauma.

Having the opportunity to practise, and to see others practise, has allowed me to bring the learning from the training into my clinical practice, giving me confidence to try out the different protocols with clients, and to develop as an EMDR therapist.

I find such rich learning in this practice group, and I really enjoy our shared passion for Attachment-Informed EMDR and Intergenerational EMDR, which inspires and nourishes me.

The feeling of being at the leading edge of a new and innovative approach is energising.

Like any group or family there can be challenges. I can struggle to belong in groups. I notice myself being triggered by others and I am aware of how I can trigger others.

The group is an opportunity to be tolerant of different learning styles and personalities as some people are more dominant and some more reserved. The challenge is creating space for everyone to share in a flexible way, being sensitive to others’ need to share, and encouraging of that without feeling responsible for others.

Holding the paradox that we are all competing for limited time, and there is enough time for everyone!

I appreciate the opportunity to learn from others and to share my own learning and mistakes, and to benefit from the gentle guidance offered by the observer and client. It’s great to have a place to ask questions and share struggles.

Being there for each other as therapist, client, observer creates feeling of mutual support and connection, invaluable during the long months of COVID isolation.

A sincere thank you to my fellow practice group members for co-creating a safe place for EMDR practice.


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