Sonya on Knipe, Gary on Sex, Porn and Love Addiction. E Anglia Regional Networking Day, Sat April 2 2022

By Ushma Patel

On a sunny and chilly Saturday, our April 2022 East Anglia Regional Networking day – continuing a tradition going back now a full eight years – was certainly popular, with over 200 colleagues signing up and 120 attendees joining in online in real time from East Anglia, the UK and as far away as Bosnia and South Africa.

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Sonya Farrell, co-founder of our EMDR Association regional group and long-time supervisee of the legendary Jim Knipe of EMDR Toolbox fame, started the morning with a case study of client ‘Christine’, presenting with multiple obvious traumas as well as Emetophobia, Trichotillomania and Addictions.

Mapping Christine’s trauma with Jim Knipe’s trademark ovals to demonstrate the various parts, Sonya explained how the overwhelm of the human nervous system’s natural processing system can lead to parts remaining unintegrated into an individual’s sense of self.

Sonya outlined three particular ways difficult life experiences can negatively influence the development of the personality and the blocking of adaptive resolution for, in the shape of (1) the dysfunctionally stored trauma memories themselves, then (2) the psychological defences that arise to protect and manage the client from those stories, then (3) the resultant self-states that remain separated from the individual’s conscious awareness.

Sonya walked us through the four pillars of Knipe’s EMDR Toolbox:

  • LOUA: the Level of Urge to Avoid, which can be targeted in EMDR as an avoidance defence preventing access to a troubling memory or an unwanted ambivalence;
  • Loving Eyes; an alternative to EMDR phase three for emotionally vulnerable clients, enabling a safe connection between awareness of present safety and an internal part that is reliving a trauma;
  • BHS: Back of the Head Scale, for measuring dissociation, moment to moment, and the degree to which a client is able to maintain an orientation to safe reality in the present while accessing traumatic material;
  • CIPOS: Constant Installation of Present Orientation and Safety, coaching the client how to self-soothe, move in and out of the trauma-reducing dissociation, and a technique that can be used between sessions.

We then split in to breakout rooms, with the opportunity to discuss and role play vignettes for LOUA, Loving Eyes and BHS/CIPOS – a useful and valuable exercise.

Returning to Zoom plenary, Sonya brilliantly demonstrated the Back of the Head Scale and the CIPOS method in a live role-play, clearly and simply, leaving us feeling more confident to take this learning into clinical practice.

We’re grateful to Sonya for a well-presented and informative morning, with opportunities to practise Knipe’s Toolbox in a clear structured format.

After lunch, our Weston-super-Mare-based colleague Gary McFarlane presented an overview of EMDR with clients presenting with sexual, love and pornography addictions and compulsions. Gary is a Relate-trained relationship counsellor and mediator, and has created a comprehensive Sex/Porn/Love addiction recovery programme.

Gary set the tone wonderfully for the afternoon starting with a poem for everyone: inclusive and non-judgmental for everyone’s parts of oneself and the sacredness of one’s being.

Gary tacked us through definitions of sex, love and porn addiction and the difference with a compulsion. Using a spirit level as a prop Gary demonstrated the need for homeostasis and equilibrium whilst highlighting particularly the intensity, the feeling state and the behaviour of addiction  –  fascinating!

We watched a video created by Gary on sex addiction explaining the exponential growth due to the internet. It was sobering to see how this is affecting both men and women, and how what initially starts as a coping strategy can lead to an addiction with negative impacts of self-soothing behaviour. https://youtu.be/4aNzP5il4tw

Another brilliant video explained love addiction and how its underpinned by attachment where there is a void to be filled by either love or sex. https://youtu.be/bLZy7he0qjg

Gary then spent some time exploring our understanding of an equation, Shame + Narcissism = Sex addiction.

Interestingly, sex and porn addiction is not recognised in the DSM5 – food for thought considering some of the statistics presented to us: for example, 70% of men aged 18-24 years visit a porn site at least once per month; one third of all internet porn users are female; average age of first exposure to internet porn is 11 years.

Gary talked us through the importance of case conceptualisation in Phase 1 of history taking in EMDR as well as what values, emotions and parts may emerge in Phase 4 of EMDR processing.

A key learning from the afternoon was that sex, love, porn addiction is not about sex, but the chase. The chase is the high point, the likely height of arousal, the equivalent of the drug taker’s needle. It is the conduit to get the dopamine, oxytocin etc into the brain.

The event was recorded so those who couldn’t attend live with us but who paid and signed up in advance have access to the recorded highlights for a further month

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