Exploring the Self with Robin Shapiro

Bring the ‘oldest, wisest’ parts of your client’s ego to the forefront and help them to access positive states.
Written by Bruna P.
Ego States & EMDR

Since the early years of her career, Robin Shapiro has faced unique challenges in addressing the profound traumas of her clients. This has prompted her to explore and develop a distinct therapeutic approach, founded on unconventional communication and the creation of a safe space for the client’s well-being.
Her journey has led her to delve into methods such as EMDR and object relations therapy, revealing the importance of addressing the complexities of dissociation and client identity. Her focus has been on integrating apparently normal parts of personality (ANP) within the framework of EMDR therapy, recognizing the crucial role they play in maintaining stability and functioning.

Robin’s method has conquered the mind of worldwide therapists that today practice EMDR with successful results.

Become a qualified therapist too with her course available here.

Robin Shapiro’s Journey into Multifaceted Therapy

Robin Shapiro graduated in 1981 and her first job was at Seattle counseling service for sexual minorities. Her supervisor Tom Negri was a movement therapist that practiced Ego State therapy. Robin learned how to practice Ego State among other therapies between 1982 and 1983. She realized that in any other school, only CBT was taught as a method of therapy for traumas, but she found they lacked in explaining other methods which probably at the time were not even discovered yet. Lacking dissociation and somatic therapy, she faced the first client who suffered tremendous traumas and understood that she had to change something in the therapy.
Simultaneously she learnt EMDR and object relations therapy, and she learned that the more dissociated the client is, the more they project into the therapist the feelings they are having. Consequently, the therapist would unexpectedly feel particularly anxious, angry, or tired.

Robin Shapiro’s Unique Approach to Establishing Safety in EMDR Therapy

Robin Shapiro employs a distinct approach to client communication, deviating from conventional methods to establish rapport and foster a sense of safety. By utilizing alternative language and techniques, she aims to create an attachment and safe space conducive to client comfort. This unique approach is crucial in preparing clients for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, where establishing a sense of safety is paramount for its effectiveness.
Dual attention, a key aspect of EMDR therapy, requires clients to feel secure before engaging in the therapeutic process. Ensuring client comfort and safety is essential for successful implementation of EMDR. However, highly dissociated individuals present a particular challenge. EMDR is not suitable for highly dissociated clients, and therapists must assess readiness carefully. Preparatory sessions may be necessary to gauge the client’s readiness and establish a foundation before initiating EMDR therapy. By prioritizing safety and readiness, therapists can optimize the efficacy of EMDR and support clients in their healing journey.

The Ego State: ANPs (Apparently normal parts)

ANP, derived from the theory of structural dissociation by Onno Van Der Hart and Kathy Steele, is a concept integral to understanding and treating various forms of dissociation, including PTSD, personality disorders, and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). These conditions involve the fragmentation of the personality, with different parts holding traumatic memories and emotions. EMDR therapy, aimed at bringing unconscious memories to consciousness and processing them, requires the presence of ANPs. These apparently normal parts of the personality function in everyday life and are essential for individuals to remain conscious during the therapeutic process.

Robin Shapiro, in her work on trauma therapy and EMDR, emphasizes the importance of addressing the complexities of trauma and adapting therapeutic approaches to meet each client’s unique needs. Her approach incorporates principles from other modalities such as ego state therapy and attachment theory, providing a comprehensive framework for trauma treatment. Central to Shapiro’s approach is recognizing the significance of ANPs in EMDR therapy. ANPs represent the individual’s usual sense of self and play a crucial role in maintaining stability and functioning in daily life. Addressing ANPs in therapy involves facilitating the integration of traumatic memories and experiences held by different parts of the personality, ultimately promoting healing and a greater sense of wholeness.

The importance of working with ANPs

Robin Shapiro and other traumas therapists recognize the importance of working with ANPs within the framework of EMDR therapy. Here’s how ANPs are typically addressed in EMDR:

  • Assessment: Before beginning EMDR therapy, the therapist conducts a comprehensive assessment to identify dissociative symptoms and the presence of ANPs. This involves exploring the client’s history, symptoms, and experiences to understand how trauma has affected their sense of self and identity.
  • Stabilization: Stabilization techniques are employed to strengthen the client’s coping skills, enhance their sense of safety, and establish a secure therapeutic relationship. This phase may involve teaching relaxation techniques, grounding exercises, and other strategies to help the client regulate their emotions and manage distress.
  • Integration: EMDR therapy aims to facilitate the integration of traumatic memories and experiences, including those held by different parts of the personality. Therapists work collaboratively with ANPs to access and process traumatic material in a safe and controlled manner. This process helps ANPs become more aware of the trauma and its impact on the individual, leading to greater cohesion and integration of the personality.
  • Resource Development: EMDR therapists assist clients in developing internal and external resources to support the integration process and promote resilience. This may include strengthening positive coping skills, fostering connections with supportive individuals, and cultivating a sense of empowerment and agency.

Addressing ANPs within the framework of EMDR therapy involves recognizing the complexity of the client’s internal experience and working collaboratively to promote healing, integration, and a greater sense of wholeness. By acknowledging and engaging with all parts of the personality, including ANPs, EMDR therapists help clients reclaim their lives and move forward from trauma towards a more adaptive and fulfilling existence.

How to become qualified:

Robin Shapiro’s method has gained widespread recognition and acceptance among therapists globally, who now apply EMDR with successful outcomes.

The inclusion of Apparently Normal Personalities (ANPs) in therapy marks a significant evolution, enhancing its effectiveness and impact.

Find out how to become qualified here: Training in Ego State Therapy

Written by Bruna P.
May 5, 2024
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