Written by Deborah Kennard, PTI Founder
The Personal Transformation Institute is excited to announce a new EMDRIA approved S.A.F.E. EMDR 6-day basic training with a focus on working with children, teens and families. We have a team of talented trainers and training coaches, many of whom are experts in using the SAFE EMDR model with families, teens and children. We believe our training is the best EMDR training out there and we are excited about this expansion!
Sean is a 15-year-old boy who refuses to go to school. He doesn’t live in the most pleasant environment at home, his parents are in an abusive, unhappy marriage, his father is often angry and in a state of rage while his mother is shut down and emotionally absent. Most of Sean’s life is spent sleeping, playing video games and avoiding his parents. His parents brought him into therapy to try to get him to go to school. His father attends all of the sessions, often jumping with angry comments and pressuring the therapist to make him better.
Does this sound familiar? When a child or teen comes in for therapy there are many factors other than the individual client. There are many things to balance in the process of working with children, teens and families in therapy. So much of the client’s life is not within his control, including continued stress and abuse that is happening in the family. When considering how to conceptualize a case with clients who are minors, there is much to be juggled and considered. This is often a dilemma that EMDR clinicians face, how to do treatment with a minor who is going back into a stressful and possibly abusive situation?
EMDR is an phased approach to psychotherapy. There are 8 phases in EMDR and all of them are crucial to the success of the therapy. Many people just consider EMDR to be a technique using bilateral stimulation, often in the form of eye movements. When used in this way, the clinician is less likely to be effective in assisting the healing process with the client.
The Personal Transformation Institute offers the S.A.F.E. Approach to EMDR, Somatic and Attachment Focused EMDR. In this approach we have unique concepts and tools to make the EMDR process more likely to be effective. One of those concepts is “The Answer”, we begin the EMDR case conceptualization by looking at the client’s “Answer”, the adaptive patterns that were created to maximize safety and attachment. Another way to look at the concept of The Answer is how the client adapted to survive and the resulting behaviors and patterns.
Understanding the adaptation patterns is helpful in many ways. The first and most crucial benefit of understanding the client’s Answer is the therapeutic safe container that develops when the client feels understood and appreciated. This safety and therapeutic relationship is necessary to have in place before even beginning to discuss traumatic memories. Our concepts and tools expedite this process and pave the way for healing and transformation to be an option.
In the case of Sean, mentioned above, the clinician was feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and pressured to do something with the client and the more she tried the worse it got. After attending training and consultation and learning how to effectively apply the SAFE approach to the case, she realized that by trying to make something happen in the therapy she was actually making it worse. The therapist realized that her own adaptive patterns were being activated, which resulted in her working hard to try to get Sean to do something. When she returned to her next session with him and apologized for her own “Answer” showing up to try to help, this was a turning point in the healing process. This apology combined with a deeper understanding of the adaptive nature of the client’s symptoms was a turning point in Sean’s therapy. By apologizing the clinician was offering some powerful relational experiences for Sean:
- An opportunity for repair, a crucial element in healthy relational attachment
- A missing experience, someone who cares about him and can apologize for misattunement
The clinician realized that not doing and shutting down was the only thing Sean could do to protect himself from the toxic emotional environment he was living in. When the therapist understood and stopped trying to help Sean by trying to get him to do more, he began to open up to her, telling her about some very disturbing events he had experienced. He was then open to moving forward in the EMDR process and able to reprocess and integrate those traumatic memories. The result of that reprocessing was that Sean was able to return to school. As they continue to work, the clinician is beginning to apply the SAFE EMDR concepts to Sean’s other family members, looking at adaptive patterns and behaviors of the parents and how all of their “Answers’ play out together.
You can find out more about our trainings here.