EMDR Resourcing for Couples - Early Stages of Therapy
This is only a small part of the process but the technique can be used as a stand alone resource intervention, integrated into your normal practice.
Many couples come in very angry at each other and unable to communicate in a constructive way. Both feeling misunderstood, needing a validated connection with their partner. These are symptoms of attachment deficits. Our goal is to help heal these deficits.
You may notice that one part of the couple will avoid, while the other will pursue, or conversely they may both pursue or both avoid each other and the issues that cause the wounds. These dynamics must be taken into consideration. This is a re-enactment of their own attachment cycles.
I have found in my work with couples, there are several things that need to happen for them to be on the same page, for both to want to engage in a way that will be more conducive to healing their wounds. Although this is an intensely personal process for the individual, there is another level of vulnerability when they are together. I attempt to help them find that safe space, the in between, where they can see the other with deeper connection. Our client is the relationship. To get to the heart of the connection, each person must identify their own vulnerabilities, empathize with the other and a desire to forgive.
Before I begin, I discuss their intentions individually to make sure they both have the goal of staying in the relationship and will do the work it takes to be successful. I theneducate them on how the wounds in their relationship are symptoms of old trauma or bad experiences from both partners that has been brought into the relationship, into the 'space between'. I help them understand how trauma affects the brain and how their neuropathways are 'frozen' by repeated 'validation of the negative belief' throughout life experiences. I discuss how that effects their behaviors and emotions in and about the relationship. I explain to them how EMDR can help to reduce the interpersonal negative effects of those events.
I also teach them the technicalities of EMDR work and how to 'walk it through' or 'tap it in'. I show them the feet as I walk through as I sit. I also demonstrate tapping on my knees and say "just tap like this, not too fast, between 6 and 12 times, not too many, but don't count". I find it helps them to be able to have dual attention for the resource. I also work with them on their own individual calm place, conflict free place in nature. It is imperative that the individual have skills to self calm and regulate.
Couples must BOTH want to save their relationship and be committed to each other to work it out. Identify the commitment to the process. That is the beginning of the healing. Then you work on their ability to be INTIMATE with each other in a sense of human connection.
Validation, Empathy, Vulnerability all work toward an Intimate, connected relationship.
Here is one thing you can do to help the enhance the positives of the shared space, between them.
Teaching how to formulate a SHARED Conflict Free Image of Togetherness is one step to help remind them they are on the same page.
The following is written from the therapist perspective, with narrator comments in parentheses.
Therapist: Have you ever been on a trip or had a shared experience where you experienced a really good connection? Have them explain this experience.
(I often get answers like, honeymoon, trip without the kids, camping, road trip. All places where freedom is the feeling, reduced responsibilities etc. Their perceptions are their own, it doesn't matter if they have the same part of that memory or one of them have a different one. They just have to use that experience to help them realize their closeness.)
Therapist: Bring up that experience, what is the temperature, what sounds are associated with the experience, smells, how are you holding yourself? Where are you in proximity to your spouse, remember those good feelings you shared at that time. Bring this up and amplify the picture, make it brighter and more intense, when you get a good sense of that closeness tap it in. (Have them tap it in or walk it through, you can have them to this together or tap for each other if appropriate).
Debriefing the experience:
Therapist: What came up for you as you were re-experiencing that time together? Share what was the best part for you (each client shares). Remember that it doesn't matter if you have different 'best parts', both of your perceptions are valid and cause good feelings toward the relationship.
Give them this as homework on a daily basis, spending time remembering the positives of how they felt with each other.
If you'd like to learn more, I will be presenting a full day on October 2, 2017 in Sioux City. Go to www.EMDRandBeyond.com to get more information or to have me come see you!
I have studied many different approaches to working with couples/families. All of my comments come from studies and experience working with couples/families. Some of the more current studies for couples was in Emotion Focused Therapy. Many of the EMDR references come from my original EMDR relationship focused training by Laurel Parnell and subsequent belief focused EMDR training by Roy Kiessling. As most therapists accumulate knowledge and don't remember where it was learned, so do I. This is an attempt to give credit to those who came before me and have shown how well they do their work.