Can you do IFS or EMDR in addition to "regular" therapy?

May 08, 2024

In the realm of mental health treatment, talk therapy has long been a cornerstone for addressing a wide range of psychological issues. However, in recent years, there has been growing recognition of the value of integrating other therapeutic modalities to complement traditional talk therapy approaches. Two such modalities gaining prominence are Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.

Let's delve into how these approaches serve as potent adjuncts to talk therapy, enriching the therapeutic process and facilitating profound healing.

Internal Family Systems (IFS) Therapy

At the heart of IFS therapy is the concept of the "internal family" within each individual. This approach posits that the mind is composed of various subpersonalities or "parts," each with its own unique emotions, beliefs, and motivations. These parts can sometimes conflict with each other, leading to inner turmoil and psychological distress.

In IFS therapy, clients learn to identify and understand these different parts of themselves, cultivating self-awareness and compassion in the process. By fostering a deeper connection with these parts, individuals can navigate internal conflicts more effectively and achieve a greater sense of inner harmony.

As an adjunct to talk therapy, IFS offers a powerful framework for exploring and resolving underlying issues that may not readily surface through traditional dialogue alone. Through guided visualization and experiential exercises, clients can access deeper layers of their psyche, uncovering the root causes of their struggles and facilitating profound healing.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy

EMDR therapy, on the other hand, is particularly effective for addressing trauma and related symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. This innovative approach integrates elements of cognitive therapy, exposure therapy, and bilateral stimulation to help individuals process and integrate distressing memories and experiences.

During an EMDR session, clients recall traumatic memories while simultaneously engaging in bilateral stimulation, typically through eye movements, taps, or auditory cues. This process facilitates the reprocessing of traumatic memories, allowing them to be stored in the brain more adaptively, free from the intense emotional charge that previously accompanied them.

As an adjunct to talk therapy, EMDR offers a targeted and efficient method for addressing trauma-related issues, complementing the broader exploration and insight gained through traditional therapeutic dialogue. By incorporating EMDR into treatment, therapists can help clients achieve significant symptom reduction and resolution of trauma-related symptoms more rapidly than with talk therapy alone.

Integrating IFS and EMDR with Talk Therapy

While IFS and EMDR therapy offer distinct approaches to healing, they can be seamlessly integrated with traditional talk therapy to create a comprehensive and holistic treatment plan. By combining these modalities, therapists can tailor their approach to meet the unique needs of each client, drawing upon the strengths of each method to maximize therapeutic outcomes.

For example, a therapist may use talk therapy to explore a client's thoughts and emotions surrounding a traumatic event, while also incorporating elements of IFS to identify and work with the different parts of the client's psyche that may be involved. Additionally, EMDR may be utilized to process and reframe the traumatic memories, accelerating the healing process and promoting greater emotional resilience. By embracing these innovative approaches, therapists can empower their clients to embark on a journey of self-discovery, healing, and transformation, ultimately leading to greater well-being and fulfillment in life.

IFS and EMDR as Adjunct to Talk Therapy

Sometimes, clients are referred to an IFS or EMDR therapist to work with in addition to their regular talk therapy appointments. This is called "adjunct therapy" and is commonly prescribed when clients may have complex concerns best addressed by specialists. Clients in this situation will often continue to see their primary therapist for weekly or bi-weekly sessions while also seeing an IFS or EMDR specialist weekly. Regular collaboration can occur between the therapists when the client signs a Release of Information form, allowing wraparound care that results in deeper movement toward treatment goals. Adjunct treatment can take place over the course of several sessions, as a one-off intensive, or can be long-term work.

However you decide to incorporate IFS and EMDR into your therapy routine, there's no "right or wrong" answer! You have options, and the ability to customize your treatment plan in whatever way feels right to you.



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