What is Attachment-Focused EMDR?

What is Attachment-Focused EMDR
Attachment-Focused EMDR can help you heal your attachment wounds

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. EMDR therapy approaches psychological, behavioural and emotional problems from a trauma perspective. The theory behind EMDR is that adverse experiences – namely negative life events that overwhelm one’s capacity to cope – are not processed adaptively in the brain. Instead of becoming part of someone’s personal narrative in a psychologically healthy way, traumatic memories are stored independently like unchanging “crystals”. Those crystallised memories retain most original properties of the traumatic event, such as the distressing emotions and bodily sensations felt at the time it occurred. Once a traumatic memory is triggered, those feelings may be relieved all over again, with or without one’s full awareness. In EMDR therapy, those upsetting memories are reprocessed with the help of bilateral stimulation (eye movement, auditory tones or tapping), so that they become integrated into the brain’s memory network. EMDR therapy does not erase traumatic memories, but edits them, so that you can look back at what has happened to you with confidence and ease. EMDR gives you the freedom to enjoy life without feeling controlled by your negative emotions.

Attachment-Focused EMDR (AF-EMDR) approaches trauma treatment from a relational trauma angle. Relational trauma is trauma that occurs “in the context of a relationship” (Parnell, 2013), be it with a mother and/or father, a relative, caregiver or any significant other. It may result as a failure to provide adequate care, as to attend to a child and adolescent’s emotional needs. Relational trauma may also follow neglect, physical, sexual and/or emotional/psychological abuse committed by a person of trust. Being raised in a dysfunctional family, by a depressed, anxious and/or toxic parent, with a substance abuse problem and/or a personality disorder (narcissistic, borderline, schizoid, etc.), as well as having a loving relationship with someone that suffers from any of those problems, may also be at the root of relational trauma. AF-EMDR helps the client heal his or her attachment wounds through resource tapping and a client-centred approach. It emphasises the importance of the therapeutic relationship in creating a sense of trust, empathy and safety in the client. By learning new coping skills, how to self-soothe and manage his or her emotions more effectively in the presence of a trusted other, the client becomes able to rebuild a healthier view of the world and his or her self.

AF-EMDR can be had face-to-face at Liberty Counselling Luxembourg, or online via Skype. For more information about online AF-EMDR, please click here

To request an appointment for an AF-EMDR therapy session at Liberty, please click here

What to expect in an Attachment-Focused EMDR session

In your first AF-EMDR therapy session, you and your therapist will get to know each other. She will take your history and you will talk about your problem and symptoms. Then she will give you a brief overview of AF-EMDR and explain how reprocessing works in theory and practice. This is an opportunity for you to talk openly about what is bothering you and clarify whatever doubts you might have about individual therapy and AF-EMDR.

The subsequent sessions may include the following:

  • Safe place and resources installation
  • Dealing with a traumatic image (worst part of the traumatic memory)
  • Exploring body sensations and emotions
  • Identifying a negative cognition that is associated with that image
  • Desensitisation and reprocessing: focus on the image, body sensations, emotions and negative cognition combined with bilateral stimulation
  • Body scan
  • Installation of positive cognition
  • Closure and debrief (return to safe place, resource tapping)

What kind of problems can Attachment-Focused EMDR treat?

Because traumatic memories keep the body on survival mode, unresolved trauma may cause prolonged pain and distress. A diverse range of mental and emotional health issues in adulthood is linked to untreated trauma, such as:

  • Depression
  • Guilt, chronic shame and low self-esteem
  • PTSD and Complex PTSD
  • Self-hatred
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Feeling vulnerable
  • Feeling not good enough, like a bad or broken person
  • Compulsive and obsessive behaviours
  • Feelings of anger, irritability and resentment
  • Emotional numbness
  • Inability to feel pleasure in life
  • Frightening thoughts and excessive worrying
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia, sleep disturbances
  • Hypervigilance, exaggerated startle reflex
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Self-sabotaging and self-destructing behaviours
  • Difficulties in relationships
  • Thoughts of suicide

Is Attachment-Focused EMDR for me?

As trauma is of a pervasive nature and affects the great majority of the population (75% in the United States), anyone may be affected by trauma. AF-EMDR can help people from differing age groups overcome the effects of trauma in a healthy and non-invasive way. Here are some facts about EMDR for your appreciation:

  • Over 2 million people have been successfully treated with EMDR
  • EMDR has been used as a therapeutic approach for over 25 years
  • It has become the number one treatment of choice for trauma and it is recommended by the World Health Organisation
  • It is one of the most researched therapeutic approaches in the world (for details, please click here)

Clients who respond well to AF-EMDR tend to share the following characteristics:

  • They have a fair notion of what is troubling them
  • They are willing to talk about their problems, thoughts and emotions openly with a therapist
  • They consider or are open to viewing the negative experiences they have gone through as traumatic
  • They are comfortable with the idea of exploring the effects of trauma on their emotions, brains and bodies
  • They are available for having therapy sessions on a weekly basis

To request an appointment with an AF-EMDR therapist, please click here


Parnell, L. (2013). Attachment-Focused EMDR, Healing Relational Trauma. New York, NY:  W.W. Norton & Company.