Freshly returned on our tandem Daisy from a 5500-km three-month European cycle tour (blog here if you’re curious), some thoughts about EMDR and Focus, workshops, priorities, Life-and-Everything and maybe a touch of Universe too. (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy refers…)
Our daughter Katharine has kept the EMDR Focus show rewardingly on the road while we were away, and despite having given therapy very little thought (which was after all the point of a sabbatical) as we circumnavigated Jutta’s homeland clockwise from top to right to bottom to left over 12-weeks-and-a-day I’m easing back into a different saddle now with perhaps more clarity about what I/we do and why.
Plenty of thinking about where life takes us as the two of us approach our mid-70s, I find myself keener than I’d expected to use the coming months to nail down, in videos and trainings and in due course a revised Unleash your EMDR book, what it is about Attachment-Informed EMDR that I think is actually quite revolutionary.
And that’s increasingly and relevantly true at a time of global challenge that includes the war in Ukraine (about which as a Russian-speaking journalist who once specialised in the Cold War I have some pretty firm views) and climate change, where if you’ve read Beverly Coghlan’s piece in the latest ETQ you’ll know I also have some unpopular, what might be termed “Doomer” perspectives.
We’ve got a number of new Unleash your EMDR workshops lined up for the months to Easter (after which, who knows, another sabbatical on tandem Daisy, perhaps around Transylvania?) now all set out on the EMDR Focus website. I’ve added a few more details at the end of these notes.
But why keep at this EMDR lark so relatively late in life? And trust me, Jutta and I asked ourselves this question a lot as we pedalled around Germany’s edges and middle, exploring and remembering the traumas of the 20th century’s wars both hot and cold.
One is that – as many of you will know from my webinars, trainings, supervision groups and perhaps personal therapy – I find EMDR and especially its Attachment-Informed variety as I’ve come to define it an extraordinarily powerful way of changing people’s lives for the better.
And yes, I do believe and am now increasingly comfortable naming it that the attachment-informed approach brings something to EMDR therapy that should be a core element of basic training from the very beginning, and not just once an EMDR newbie has got comfortable with just the Standard Protocol.
AI-EMDR is exciting, at times thrilling, and always rewarding, focusing from the very outset of therapy on radical curiosity about how a client got to be the way they are, and what their presentation is really about.
As those of you who’ve done my workshops already know, we prioritise up-front bridging for target identification, rich imaginal resourcing and a very clear session structure each time we meet that takes the work deep into the client’s most formative experiences, particularly in the context of maternal attachment.
And given that what Francine Shapiro calls dysfunctional memory patterns are by now just legacy and survival-informed constructs of our client’s nervous system, we really do rewire the narratives of the past, with courageous creativity, relational dance and intuition.
So before I’m done, in these coming months and maybe a few short years, I’d like to consolidate and capture what I’ve learned in nearly three decades now as what might be termed a shrack (former hack/journalist turned psychotherapist), to the benefit and hopefully inspiration of others who might find AI-EMDR game-changing in their own practice.
Secondly – and now this note shades into the existential – I increasingly believe that EMDR as a whole brings something we human beings will seriously need as global heating and population overshoot take dramatic and traumatic hold on a world we older folk grew up taking for granted, with droughts and floods, fires and catastrophic weather events, sea level rise, the extinction of species and the collapse in current lifetimes of our current industrial civilisation.
Yes, it’s that bad.
And if we humans are to manage these challenges as well as might be possible, we need, as scientists might put it, to sort our sh*t out and work together, and clear the triggers of our individual and shared traumatic pasts.
In which context, not a great idea to invade Ukraine, Mr Putin. Sharing this planet and its atmosphere and natural world, we have other rather more important priorities than imperial aggrandisement.
Nations and communities, if we think about it, are just individuals writ large – with behaviours and responses informed by all the avoidances and emotional intrusions which for us as therapists working with trauma are the daily business of EMDR targeting and processing.
So in that context, what kind of EMDR do we best practice?
Is it just the Standard Protocol of the basic training, with its trust in the client’s capacity for adaptive information processing which should ensure that targets appropriately identified are processed to adaptive resolution with us as therapists largely staying out of the way, holding the space, and perhaps hoping for the best?
Or should we go deeper, with, as I say, radical curiosity from the very first moment a client gets in touch (email, phone, text, however it’s done) about what their story of dysfunction is really about.
And there, as I very clearly see and understand in the work we do with attachment-informed EMDR, the targets that need addressing are usually only tangentially the bad things that happened.
More important is to identify the meaning that our client made of what happened, the traumas big T and small, and above all what I now prefer to call the Formative Experiences that determined how, in the context at first of maternal and then of family and wider collective attachment and experience, their nervous system learned how to BE in the world.
As Gabor Mate puts it, trauma is not the external event but the internal wound – and an Attachment-Informed EMDR has the tools to take us straight there from the beginning of our work with a client – clearly in the context of sufficient safety and client capacity, but with therapist courage, wisdom and active engagement to make a difference.
As I said, Life, the Universe and Everything – so switching now (with appreciation for your having read this far) to what this means for my own post-sabbatical re-engagement with EMDR therapy and training, do join myself and our EMDR Focus team in the coming months to explore these themes both more deeply, and set about making a serious difference to your practice.
There’s the familiar set of three half-day Parts 1 and 2 which many of you will have done, the latter embracing intergenerational, dreams and parts. Well worth doing again as a refresher, I would argue – and we have discounts if you choose to do that.
To complement those main workshops setting out AI-EMDR in detail and with intense supervised practicums, I’m also planning several shorter five-hour subject webinars – on Intergenerational or IG-EMDR, working with Dreams and AI-EMDR with Couples.
Now that the pandemic seems pretty much behind us workshops in-person would be fun, but living in deepest North Norfolk (and as an Aspie rather preferring this way of working) I’m staying online-only, with timings not just for folk here in the UK but for colleagues in Australia and New Zealand and (separately) for the US as well.
Our EMDR Focus website has all workshops and webinars set out in detail, with dates, times and costs, and explorable by either subject or date. There’s a simple outline at the bottom of this email.
Parts 1 and 2 are costed at our usual rates, but for the subject webinars, while suggesting £95 for the five hours, we’re open to welcoming colleagues at whatever rate you might feel comfortable paying, and perhaps even (whisper it quietly) for free.
Again, whisper it quietly as it’s not a widely-held or officially popular view, I now argue that an explicit focus on attachment, and how to identify and work creatively with the most crucially relevant targets for EMDR, should be part of basic EMDR training, right from the start.
I do hear and understand (even if not agreeing with them) the arguments of esteemed EMDR colleagues that it’s not helpful to use labels like AI-EDMR, given that the Standard Protocol and standard training of course deal with attachment.
Newer trainees are often told, “Don’t explore all these extra advanced workshops before you’re thoroughly familiar with the Standard Protocol and practised in working with single incident and simpler presentations.”
But how many clients like that have you ever had?
In my case, working with a good thousand folk since I started out, I’d say I’ve had two or three clients who were genuine cases of one-off traumas resolved nice and easy. For this one therapist, that’s well under one per cent.
However tempting, I won’t list here the enthusiasms colleagues have shared with us after doing our AI-EMDR training (testimonials galore on the website), but if you’ve not yet joined us on an Unleash Your EMDR workshop, or would like to refresh your skills (lots of new ideas since you last did it), please do consider doing that.
And as a taster (if you haven’t already viewed it) here’s a free video of Katharine and myself exploring the central, burning question that pretty much anyone launching themselves into EMDR soon finds themselves asking, namely Where Do I Start.
Let me end this note with the promised simple list of what’s brewing and the hope to see you online soon.
- 4 x Unleash your EMDR Part 1 – a three half-day practical workshop on the basics of Advanced, Attachment-Informed, Integrative EMDR. UK and AUS-friendly times Sept ’23 1-10, Jan ’24 12-14. UK and US-friendly Nov 22-24 and March 25-27 ’24.
- 3 x Unleash Part 2 – Release the Magic. Again, three half-days, on Intergenerational EMDR, Parts/Ego States and Dreams. UK/Australia-friendly times Dec 8-10. UK/US-friendly times Sept 27-29, Feb 19-21 ’24.
- 2 x webinar on EMDR with Intergenerational Narrative and Trauma. Each five hours. UK/US times Oct 13. UK/Aus times Feb 5 ’24.
- 2 x webinar on AI-EMDR with Dreams. UK/US Nov 11, UK/AUS Mar 9 ‘24.
- 2 x webinar on AI-EMDR with Couples. Oct 27 UK/US, Jan 20 ’24 UK/US.