The Bee Hive Theory of AIP


In the trainings we do an exercise called, “The Triggering Client.”

I got that from DaLene Forester when I first did an EMDR training with her when I was learning how to teach EMDR. To set it up, we ask the student trainee to identify a client that triggers them, and then do a floatback from that client to find a linked childhood event. From there they do the EMDR Standard protocol on the childhood memory, and then, if there is time, they process the triggering client.   

Invariably three teaching points come from that exercise, in addition to learning the floatback technique and practicing standard protocols. One is seeing how current life events link to childhood events, another is identifying their own frustration or irritation with a client as counter-transference, and third, ending up with a greater sense of compassion or empathy for their triggering client.  

The linkage of childhood memories to what happens from being with a client is what I call the “you-are-your-own-client” phenomenon. It’s not like the clients have maladaptive neural networks, and the EMDR therapist doesn’t. We all do, no one is immune. Part of the job, then, is for the therapist to identify their own activation, resolve and integrate that, and in that way open up space for the treatment of another.  

I call the second feature, “The-innocence-of-countertransference.” I did have a trainee say once, “We were told in graduate school that we can’t have countertransference with clients, and if we do it’s a bad thing. So, don’t do it.”  The exercise shows, from the perspective of the AIP model, that countertransference – uncomfortable resonance with a client – is happening unconsciously, under the surface, and is a physiological response that is non-volitional – that is, it just happens. The problem isn’t that we have it, the issue is what we do with it once we recognize it. And, the difficulty seems to be recognizing that their discomfort with the client is related to a personal childhood issue. Because while some trainees see the connection even before floating back, most don’t.

The empathy that often arises from the therapist toward their triggering client, is where the Bee Hive theory comes in. The thing about bee hives is that while some bees are in the hive, a lot of them can be swarming around it. When we sit down with a client – even online – the bees from the therapist’s hive and the clients’ hive start intermingling. And sometimes the bees from the client’s hive that the therapist’s bees don’t like get trapped in the therapist’s hive or swarm, thereby causing unease or discomfort in the therapist. Similar irritant bees from that client, similar clients, or any other people activate those bees and thus cause the therapist more personal discomfort or dysregulation.

Having the trainee therapist do EMDR processing on their own childhood bees that got intermingled with the client bees, seems to allow the childhood bees to settle in, and it frees the client bees to leave to find another home. Now, when the therapist is back with their own hive, with their own healthy bees, they can then look at the client’s hive and see the pain and discomfort the client must be in. That separation of bees from between one hive and the other, allows for honey-sweetness of caring and empathy by the therapist towards their formerly triggering client. This is because the therapist seems to be saying, “I have empathy for them because I was living their experience with them – in my head – and I am now free from it – and so are they.”  

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