What’s attachment informed EMDR?

Dec 21, 2023

Understanding Attachment-Informed EMDR

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a well-established psychotherapy technique known for its effectiveness in treating trauma and PTSD. However, recent advancements have led to the development of an enhanced approach known as Attachment-Informed EMDR. This method incorporates an understanding of a person’s attachment style—how they form emotional bonds and relationships—into the traditional EMDR framework, offering a more nuanced treatment for those whose trauma is intertwined with early attachment issues.

attachment-informed emdr

The Basics of EMDR

Before delving into what sets Attachment-Informed EMDR apart, it's crucial to understand the basics of traditional EMDR therapy. EMDR is based on the premise that our brains can become overwhelmed by traumatic experiences, leading to a disruption in how these memories are stored. This can result in the persistence of distressing symptoms long after the traumatic event has passed. EMDR therapy uses bilateral stimulation, typically through guided eye movements, to help the brain reprocess these memories in a more adaptive way.

Attachment Theory and Trauma

Attachment theory posits that early relationships with caregivers shape our expectations for future relationships and can influence how we cope with stress and trauma. Securely attached individuals typically have a history of supportive and responsive caregiving, whereas those with insecure attachments may have experienced inconsistency, neglect, or abuse. These early experiences can profoundly affect how individuals process and respond to trauma later in life.

attachment theory

Distinguishing Features of Attachment-Informed EMDR

Attachment-Informed EMDR integrates the principles of attachment theory into the therapeutic process. This approach acknowledges that trauma can be relational and that attachment wounds require specific attention. Therapists trained in Attachment-Informed EMDR are attuned to the signs of attachment trauma and adapt their strategies to address the unique needs of clients with different attachment styles.

Enhanced Therapeutic Alliance

A key component of Attachment-Informed EMDR is the emphasis on building a strong therapeutic alliance. Therapists work to create a safe and secure base for clients, mirroring the supportive caregiving that may have been missing in their early lives. This relationship becomes a crucial part of the healing process, allowing clients to explore and reprocess traumatic memories within a context of safety and trust.

therapeutic alliance

Modified Treatment Protocols

The standard EMDR protocol may be adapted to be more sensitive to attachment issues. For example, Attachment-Informed EMDR might involve more extended preparation phases, where therapists spend additional time helping clients develop coping skills and resources for managing distress. The reprocessing phases are also tailored to focus more directly on attachment-related memories and beliefs, allowing for a deeper healing of relational traumas.

Benefits of Attachment-Informed EMDR

  • Comprehensive Treatment: By addressing the root of attachment trauma, this approach can lead to more profound and lasting healing.
  • Increased Safety and Trust: The focus on the therapeutic relationship helps clients feel more secure, which can enhance the effectiveness of the treatment.
  • Personalized Care: Therapists consider each client's individual attachment style, allowing for a more customized and responsive treatment plan.