Accelerated Information Processing (AIP) is a key factor in understanding the efficacy of EMDR Therapy. Experience is predominantly registered neurologically in three information storage forms — sensation, emotion and cognition. When all three negative neural networks are identified, linked with a target issue or memory and activated with bilateral stimulation (BLS), the consequence is a more complete and time-efficient resolution to disturbance. The development of the Integrative Resource Protocol (IRP) resulted from my discovery that the AIP model is just as effective in potentiating positive sensations, emotions and cognitions as it is with negative. When the IRP is combined with elements of Attachment theory, Internal Family Systems theory and Somatic Psychology theory, it maximizes healing, attachment repair and the creation of new and more positive neural networks. Positive neurological integration occurs with emotions, sensations and cognitions as well as with distressed and sometimes fragmented parts of the psyche.
The benefits of the Integrative Resource Protocol include the following:
1) The client is able to more fully internalize the installation of Peaceful Place, Nurturer, Protector and Wise Figures (or any other resource figures deemed beneficial by the clinician.) This internalization facilitates a more resourced present-time experience of self. More fully resourced clients are better able to tolerate doing deep trauma work. When activation of the attachment wound has been lowered or resolved, frequently, there will be a corresponding lowering of Subjective Units of Disturbance (SUDS) in relationship to the trauma. Resolving the attachment wound interwoven in a trauma unfixes it in the client’s psyche and it often more naturally processes through during Standard or Modified EMDR sessions; there is frequently less occurrence of resistance, dissociation, looping or stuck processing. The work not only goes more smoothly, IRP is also time-efficient.
2) For the Standard and Modified EMDR protocols, short sets of BLS are recommended for resourcing so trauma and/or developmental networks do not get unduly activated prior to the session. This is in contrast to IRP where longer sets or continuous BLS is utilized. Consequently, as the Standard or Modified EMDR resourcing methods have accurately predicted, disturbance does often surface. Rather than viewed as an undesirable occurrence, however, the distress is welcomed. Using the Internal Family Systems model, the distressed part of the client is identified and brought into the positive potentiated resource field for attachment repair. Resource interweaves may also used for healing and regulation. During subsequent Standard or Modified EDMR trauma work, the identified parts have already experienced significant developmental repair and are able to better tolerate the distressing feelings, thoughts and sensations that may emerge.
3) In more extreme cases of neglect and trauma, structural dissociation occurs. Babies and young children have immature nervous systems and rely on caretakers to help regulate their needs and disturbances. There are two kinds of regulation: 1) interactive regulation – being soothed by others, and 2) auto-regulation – soothing oneself. Chronologically, the first precedes the second; being adequately soothed by others provides the foundation for learning how to soothe oneself. In the absence of interactive regulation, the child must find his/her own way to cope and structural dissociation is the most common solution. Once dissociated parts are identified they can be invited into the integrated resource field for stabilization and healing. The missed developmental stage of interactive regulation can be imaginally created to provide the experience of loving care and safety. This allows fragmented parts to reintegrate and orient in present time.
4) Typically, IRP with clients takes anywhere from one session to many months depending upon the depth of attachment wounding and the fragility of ego. Extended IRP is especially important for highly traumatized clients who have specifically come in to do Standard or Modified EMDR work and our clinical assessment is they are too disregulated and do not have the ego strength necessary for a positive outcome. A common question asked by my consultees is, “How do I tell a client they are not ready for EMDR in a way that does not make them feel bad about themselves?” Rather than tell the client he/she is not ready (which may indeed have a negative impact on their already tenuous self-esteem,) IRP is presented as a protocol of EMDR. Like Standard or Modified EMDR, IRP is based on the AIP model and utilizes BLS to process information and move toward adaptive resolution. The focus on developing positive neurological networks becomes empowering for the client and fosters a more natural “buy-in” to the therapeutic process. IRP is an effective alternative healing modality with clients for whom trauma based EMDR may never be indicated. Additionally, with all others, it becomes a viable treatment option because resolution to disturbance may occur entirely within the positively integrated resourced field.
5) More fully potentiated positive neural networks are developed through the Integrative Resource Protocol. During Standard or Modified EMDR when the client enters an activated trauma network, s/he has more natural access to resources as they were also developed in an AIP manner. This access to resources supports self-regulation and maintaining optimal arousal, i.e., the frontal cortex is online — which is necessary for healing old memories and developmental wounds as well as for the integration of new information. Clients may also be taught how to use the IRP for self-regulation between sessions.
6) Even with just one session of the Integrative Resource Protocol, much can be learned about the clients processing style as well as their readiness to do Standard or Modified EMDR trauma work. By introducing extended BLS in a less evocative situation, the clinician can discern whether the client has a tendency to flood or dissociate, or if they process quickly or slowly. Whether the client is a linear processor (likely to remain in one neural network) or is a tangential processor (likely to activate multiple networks) also becomes apparent. This positions the clinician to better navigate the time management aspect of EMDR sessions and to formulate a therapeutic plan tailored to the client’s processing style.
7) The Integrative Resource Protocol is client centered and empowering. It supports the development of the client’s own imagination for creative solutions to distress. It also supports the strengthening of resilience. A more pervasive experience of well-being becomes possible when previously disavowed or fragmented parts of the self are more fully healed and integrated.
The power of IRP is exemplified by Susan, a 43-year old woman, who was having relationship issues with her in-laws. This case is particularly useful because there were no precipitating events in her life so it allows for a clear view into the time-efficient healing potential of this protocol. Susan had a good enough childhood and a good enough life. She described feeling very judged by her husband’s parents. She felt misunderstood and misrepresented and it was interfering with her sleep and her general well-being. We set up four sessions. We used the first session for history taking and building therapeutic alliance. Given her psychological maturity and lack of trauma, we spent the second session using IRP. It went quickly and smoothly. At the close of the second session, as she was getting up to go, she turned to me and said, “ You know what, I am going to cancel those other sessions. I’m feeling really good inside. When I am feeling loved and content and full of gratitude, I don’t really care what they think anymore. They can bad mouth me all they want but I know who I am. That’s all that matters.” A month later, I contacted her to find out if the positive results had lasted over time. She emphatically replied, yes, and that in general she felt better about everything and had taken on some new challenges at work, which she attributed to our session.
I have been using IRP with my clients with great success. I have taught this protocol to over 40 consultees and several colleagues. All report positive results and feel it has augmented the healing of attachment wounds and complex trauma in a time efficient manner. It has also decreased the level of trauma experienced in the process of doing trauma work. The Integrative Resource Protocol is a stand-alone therapeutic modality and I am currently positioned to teach this protocol to some non-EMDR clinicians.
Note: I am currently looking for volunteers who are willing to be video taped in exchange for session work with the Integrative Resource Protocol. These tapes will be used for training purposes only.