A (More) Trauma Informed Ideal Parent Figure Protocol for Attachment Repair

Attachment trauma

The Ideal Parent Figure Protocol is wonderful for repairing attachment wounds. You can read more HERE, but basically by imagining an ideal set of parents giving you a sense of safety, attunement, delight, support, and soothing. This creates a new internal working model that your mind now uses to navigate relationships.

It’s important to work with a trained practitioner. Also, if someone has any trauma, any intense childhood issues, you ought never practice this protocol on your own. It can cause serious mental distress.

For many with trauma, any form of imagining an ideal parent can be difficult. The Three Pillar Model developed by Dan Brown and David Elliott already include trauma informed considerations, however other trauma modalities can be helpful. I’ve had clients whose imaginary parents turn very critical, or violent. Also, a “part” of the client can become activated and refuse to interact with the ideal parents because it feels unsafe. Protector “parts” might come out and attack the ideal parents to keep the child parts safe.

In his new essay “CONTROVERSIES IN THE TREATMENT OF TRAUMATIC DISSOCIATION” in “DISSOCIATION AND THE DISSOCIATIVE DISORDERS Past, Present, Future” David Elliott and Pam Stavropoulos advocate for the Ideal Parent Figure Protocol.

However, they do admit,

“ As with any specific treatment form, the therapist must choose carefully when and how to apply the IPF process and may choose not to use it at all with a particular patient. A very important consideration for treatment planning involves the cohort of complex trauma patients who are the most chronically traumatized and dissociative, for whom early attempts to imagine in this way may be disorganizing, and whose somatophobia may be such that attention to visceral and bodily felt sensation risks triggering retraumatization. Careful, measured caution and creative adaptation must be applied with patients with early bodily abuse histories, and if IPF imagery is to be used, it may be important to delay its implementation until the vulnerability for retraumatization is reduced.” 

So, I asked a few of the big Trauma experts for a more trauma informed Ideal Parent Figure Protocol- Robin Shapiro, Zimmerman etc. First, with clients with severe trauma or disassociation, I make sure I first have a grounding exercise ready, which you can read about HERE.

Then I’ve borrowed some techniques from Ego State Therapy, and Resource Therapy, both of which I’m trained in.

For traumatized clients, before the ideal parents are imagined, or the client is regressed to childhood, I’ll have them imagine a large mansion. This mansion has many rooms.

Then I’ll have the client fill the rooms with things an angry or upset part might like. Stuffed animals, toys, specific foods.

Also protectors. I’ve had clients put several locks on the doors, have giant teddy bears with guns to protect the child. Some clients imagine nurses there to care for the child, or giant robots with swords to protect the room.

This way, if anything happens during the meditation that is frightening, we can instantly pop into one of the safe rooms. We can also place upset parts in the room while the other parts interact with the ideal parents.

Another trick – the client can imagine being in a safe, protective bubble. This bubble will only let in good things and good feelings. It is impenetrable, it can make the client invisible, and if anything distressing should occur, it can instantly pop the client out of the scene and into one of the safe rooms.

Sometimes it also helps to have resources handy. I might ask the client what qualities he or she wishes to bring into the scene, and then we personalize them. These characters can stand ready to protect the client, or surround the client with a circle of love should anything upsetting take place.

There are many other methods to deal with trauma informed practices, these are just a few.

If anyone has any other ideas or thoughts I’d love to hear them.
Thank you, Jonathan McCormack.

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