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EMDR and Attachment Style

How to Heal

Often, when client's come to me, in a desire to heal their attachment style, they will express feeling lost. While attachment styles have become something common we talk about in culture, understanding how to heal them, how to gain earned secure attachment is something that might feel a bit more far off.

Personally, I saw a host of therapists, before I felt like I found one that really helped me work on my style in a way that actually addressed my core concerns. But before that, I would find a therapist that advertised working with attachment, only to find myself 6-months in, and them continuing to promise me "healing is coming".

(What it felt like working with certain therapists)

While I understanding healing takes time, and everyone works at their own pace, this just didn't jive with me, and being a bit of a research nut, I dove in deeper to understand what we mean when we talk about healing attachment. While I uncovered a host of information on this issue, one practice that I kept coming back to was EMDR. Specifically attachment focused EMDR, which takes a bit more comprehensive approach that "normal" EMDR.

While EMDR therapy focuses on processing and resolving traumatic memories, AF-EMDR expands the focus to include unresolved attachment issues that may be contributing to current symptoms and difficulties. AF-EMDR recognizes the importance of early attachment experiences in shaping our sense of self and our relationships with others. In AF-EMDR, I specifically learned how to work with deeper experiences, that shaped my sense of self, and how I relate to others, and how in turn these experiences influence my attachment style.

(How our Memories Shape us)

Outside of my own, and client's I've worked with, experiences, AF-EMDR does have some research backing it. A study by Seedat et al. (2005) found that EMDR was effective in reducing symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and improving attachment in a sample of South African women who had experienced domestic violence. Another study by Maxfield et al. (2008) found that EMDR was effective in improving attachment in a sample of women who had experienced childhood sexual abuse.

These are just two, of a ton of studies, that are coming forward about ways our attachment style can be shaped, but it's encouraging to know when you feel lost about "how" to change your style, there are ways to do that.

References: Maxfield, L., Melnyk, W. T., & Hayman, C. A. (2008). A working model and metaphor for EMDR attachment trauma treatment. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 2(4), 274-289.

Seedat, S., Nyamai, C., Njenga, F., Vythilingum, B., & Stein, D. J. (2005). Trauma exposure and post-traumatic stress symptoms in urban African schools: Survey in Cape Town and Nairobi. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 186(4), 336-341.

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