Trauma and Transformation,
The "Power Therapies": TIR, TFT, EMDR, and V/KD

An Interview with Kate Sorensen

Excerpted from the Summer 1996 issue of the Institute for Research in Metapsychology Newsletter


Foreword by Gerald D. French

Kate Sorensen (pictured at left) is past President of the Arizona Mental Health Counselors Association, President of the Arizona Counselors Association, Co-ordinator of the Native American Trauma Counselors Project (NATCP), and Director of Trauma Relief Services of Arizona as well as former Director of the Traumatic Incident Reduction Association (TIRA). Though Kate and her husband, Mark, recently completed a move that has brought their three-year-old son, Miles, closer to schools and friends in Flagstaff, they previously lived the past five and a half years on a solar-powered ranch thirty miles away from the nearest town and sometimes as few as three inches away from the nearest rattlesnake. Kate has worked on the Navajo reservation and with other Native American tribes much of the time since moving to the Southwest in 1977. She is an Institute-certified TIR trainer, has trained in the other three "Power Therapies" [1] as well, and used all four in her practice.

Kate holds a Masters in Counseling from Northern Arizona University, is certified by the Association of Trauma and Stress Specialists (ATSS) as a Trauma Counselor, and has been a Certified Metapsychology Facilitator and an active member of the Traumatic Incident Reduction Association (formerly the Institute for Research in Metapsychology) since 1987.


GDF: Your work as a counselor in Flagstaff, not to mention your other duties throughout the Southwest, must keep you extremely busy. How did you manage to live in such splendid isolation while meeting so many of the demands of civilization?

KMS: Living at the Gateway Ranch has been a grand adventure and quite a learning experience. Juggling work, family, travel and taking care of that facility finally got to be a little too stressful, though. We've just rented the ranch to a group of artists and musicians and hope to find time to go back and visit during some of their celebrations.

I should thank you, Gerald, for getting me into e-mail and Charles Figley for the connection with the Traumatic Stress Forum. That's been a great way to communicate around the world and has enabled me to stay in touch professionally. The Internet has truly changed my life. For instance, when I was looking for staff to conduct trainings for the Native American Trauma Counselors Project, I sent out a brief message and got so many offers from high quality volunteer trainers that now it's a challenge to put them all to work.

GDF: How did you and Mark meet?

KMS: Eighteen years ago I was living in Florida when I had a dream-literally-and followed it. Within days I found myself teaching on the Navajo reservation, in spite of the fact that I wasn't a teacher, had never been to Arizona, and the only thing I was pretty sure I knew about Indians was that they didn't need any more well-intentioned but clueless white folks coming around to "teach" them anything. I did in fact have at least one clue, though: I traveled out here carrying a piece of paper that I had picked up at Indiana University that said "Rough Rock, Arizona. Mark Sorensen, Principal". After Mark and I met, it took us another seven years to realize we were in love and get married, but that's another story. Mark has been a school administrator on the reservation for nearly twenty years. Now he also works with many different tribes as Director of the Native American Grant School Association.

GDF: How did the two of you come to live in the high desert?

KMS: We wanted to live in beautiful, natural surroundings and saw an ad for the ranch in a newspaper. The first time we visited we were encircled by a herd of pronghorn antelope on the road. It felt like a greeting from the neighborhood welcoming committee. Since the previous owners thought we'd have to tear down a vandalized old house on the property, they had priced the land quite cheaply. Eventually we evicted the cows in the living room and the snakes from under the porch, made a lot of repairs and were able to move in.

Many times I've felt blessed to be in that vast space. The silence, the stars, the moonrises and sunsets, eagles, antelope... even the rattlesnakes have been gifts to remind us of our place in the world.

For now, though, it seems to make sense to be closer to town for the sake of my work. I have to admit that I'm enjoying an easy life with modern conveniences we hadn't had for a long time. We no longer worry about running out of water or electricity, we don't have to haul clothes to the laundromat, and Miles is in a pre-school that he loves. But there's more to life than having it easy. I want to fully experience life, even if it's not always pleasant. Maybe that's why I get such a thrill out of doing Traumatic Incident Reduction. Although there may be some quicker ways of getting relief from emotional discomforts, I value the completion of experience, rather than its avoidance.

GDF: Are you and Mark interested in each other's work?

KMS: It's interesting to me that our work is different but complementary. We're both involved in education, and in improving human conditions. However, he prefers to work with groups, like schools and communities, while I'm fascinated by exploring the world of the individual. Right now, Mark is working to start Wellness Centers in reservation communities, which I find very exciting. These will have a mental health component, so in the future we may have opportunities to work together more closely.

GDF: How did the Native American Trauma Counselor Project (NATCP) come about, and how is it going currently?

KMS: The concept of the NATCP came to me one morning in a flash a few months ago. Later the same day, I happened to see Francine Shapiro's e-mail address on my computer screen and wrote to her, asking if there were a chance that I could teach Eye Motion Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to native Americans.[1] By the end of the day, she had responded with an offer to help in any way she could, and of course I knew I could count on help with TIR instruction from the Institute and others. After that, things started to fall into place fast.

At this time, there are few credentialed Native American mental health professionals. Even for those who manage to complete a graduate degree, much of what they learn may not be relevant to work on the reservations or with a Native American population in urban areas. At the same time, many Indian communities experience high rates of traumatic stress due to accidents, alcoholism, illness, suicide, domestic violence, child abuse and other factors that are intensified by poverty and cultural disruption.

IATC trauma specialist certification has sufficiently tough standards to require some real skills, but I hope it will be possible for participants to complete their certification requirements within a year or two of part-time study. We are focusing on providing courses that are practical in real-life situations, and will be integrating traditional healing approaches wherever possible. At the same time, the quality of trauma counseling skills that we will teach in this program should be at least as good as those to be found anywhere.

I expect to learn a lot, too. The 240 hour program will cover all of the "Power Therapies" that Figley and Carbonell studied at FSU, along with other trauma-related topics [1]. I'll be joining Nancy Day, Ragnhild Malnati, and you, Gerald, as a volunteer teaching TIR. Steve Silver and at least six EMDR trainers will be coming to conduct an EMDR Level I training. And we have V/KD and TFT trainers who have volunteered, too.

Our staff should be absolutely first rate: Mary Beth Williams is scheduled to teach the first week of the program in August; then we'll have three workshop leaders from the National Center for PTSD. Right now the challenge is to organize the program locally and make it as easy as possible for people to actually attend.

GDF: I'm looking forward to it, Kate. On another subject: what were you doing when you first encountered the subject of metapsychology, and how did you happen to come across it?

KMS: I crossed paths with Dr. Gerbode when I was working in Santa Barbara in 1984. A few years later, when I happened to be in the Bay Area, I visited IRM and was amazed to find all of the procedures and course materials that had been developed. I jumped in and studied everything that was available.

GDF: Have you found that your training in metapsychology has changed your approach to your work or your feelings about it in any way?

KMS: Absolutely! Before that training, although I had the academic degree and credentials to work in the mental health professions, I felt overwhelmed. Every day I came in contact with more people who were suffering. Mostly I just listened to their stories, offered a caring presence and used a semi-Rogerian approach to help them reflect on their lives in a nonjudgmental way. Sometimes this seemed helpful, but with people who had been through severe trauma, I rarely felt that I could do enough. What was I going to say: "When you saw your father shoot himself in the head, how did it make you feel?"?

During this time, around 1986, I learned the NLP Visual/ Kinesthetic Dissociation (V/KD) technique and used it with sexually abused girls. This was a useful tool, but I still wasn't sure that it provided all that was needed.

After just two and a half years of working with Navajo youths in a school dormitory, I was suffering from a pretty bad case of "compassion fatigue". I left to start prevention programs (drugs, alcohol, dropouts, etc.) and lead group retreats in reservation schools and at the ranch. This was worthwhile, and a more positive approach, but I still heard too many heartbreaking stories and wanted to work on a deeper level.

GDF: Which of the "tools" of metapsychology have you found yourself making the most use of in your work?

KMS: Since I call my organization "Trauma Relief Services", most people come in with traumatic events that they want to resolve. I use Traumatic Incident Reduction more than anything else these days, and I find it extremely rewarding. In the future, though, I'd like to turn over some of the trauma work to other people and focus more on exploring the personal growth and spiritual awareness aspects of metapsychology.

I do believe that the rather down-to-earth work of freeing ourselves from suffering and automatic reactive patterns is related to "cosmic consciousness", or whatever you want to call it. I've had glimpses of the unity and perfection of the universe throughout my life, yet somehow my attention is always pulled back to the seemingly mundane side of things. I've seen this happen to lots of other people, too. There are plenty of ways to get relief or to get high for the moment; the challenge is to maintain our sense of joy and communion while "chopping wood and carrying water".

GDF: What sorts of issues respond best to the use of TIR, in your experience?

KMS: I find TIR very effective for virtually any type of traumatic incidents, including rape and childhood sexual abuse, accidents, injuries, loss of loved ones, natural disasters, and crime-related trauma, but I've found it to be especially reliable and often dramatically effective when used to address incidents that lasted a relatively short time - perhaps a couple of weeks or less. And it doesn't matter whether the incident happened yesterday or fifty years ago.

And of course "Thematic TIR" can be used in cases where a person is aware of a symptom but may have no idea of the cause. The possible forms of unwanted emotions, sensations, or attitudes are virtually endless. Some themes, like "never being good enough" or "fear of abandonment", are especially common, but I can't say that I've found TIR to be any more effective with one type of theme than another. We just explore until we identify a clear theme that is vivid and real and of great interest to the viewer.

In this work, we're not out to eliminate basic emotions, like fear, anger or sadness, even if we could. These may serve a useful survival function. But a "choking terror", "burning rage", or "frozen emptiness" that gets triggered in certain situations would probably be a good TIR theme.

Each person is different, and individuals can end up with similar themes through very different experiences. Conversely, they can go through events that seem similar, or even share the same incident, and come out with quite different responses to it. An event that may seem trivial, such as an embarrassment in grade school, can be overwhelming to a person at the time it happens. It may lead to lifelong consequences due, perhaps,to decisions he made at that point about himself or life.

This is yet another example of why I agree that it's important to take a "person-centered" approach. It usually annoys us to be told that we shouldn't feel the way we do, or to "get over it". But once we realize exactly why we made certain choices in the past, we often see clearly that we no longer need or want to continue those patterns. At that point we're free to make new choices.

GDF: How would you rate the effectiveness of TIR compared to that of other procedures with which you are familiar?

KMS: There's a lot that could be said on this subject. Besides metapsychology procedures, I use all of the "power therapies" that Figley studied at FSU, and a few other techniques on occasion, too. I find that each of them is valuable, and that none of them offers everything for everyone.

I really like EMDR. I find the quality of the cognitive restructuring and realizations that people have, along with the completeness of relief, to be comparable to TIR. There are differences, too, and I couldn't say which one is "better" overall. Fortunately, I don't have to make that judgment and I'm happy to have both tools to use.

In practice, I find that other techniques like EMDR work better when the practitioner follows the Rules of Facilitation[2] that we always use in TIR and other metapsychological procedures. I like the fact that EMDR sessions, like those of TIR, continue until the client reaches an end point. Shapiro defines the EMDR end point somewhat differently than Gerbode defines TIR's, but in my experience, both represent something like the same concept and degree of completion.

EMDR offers the client the freedom to look at anything that comes up while doing the eye movements. This allows for flexibility and for patterns to emerge that may include a lot of different events. But it's alsopossible to stir up more than can be resolved at one time, which might have something to do with the occasional EMDR phenomena of disturbances coming up after a session, even when the client reaches a good end point on the initial subject.

Some people claim that insight is not necessary for relief of suffering, and they may be right. I believe, however, that the realizations we gain are valuable for other reasons. As a client-or "viewer"-I appreciate feeling that I'm learning from my experience, even if it takes a little longer to do that.

All of these methods are amazingly fast compared to anything I knew of before.

I appreciate efficiency, and quick therapies can be made available for larger numbers of people. In fact, as managed care companies catch on to the degree of relief that is possible in a short amount of time, I wouldn't be surprised if they begin to demand these kind of results. But while I'm quite impressed by a technique like Roger Callahan's Thought Field Therapy [TFT] that sometimes leads to great relief in just a couple of minutes, I have a personal commitment to also developing approaches that lead to greater awareness, personal responsibility, deep joy and empowerment. When I look back on my life, I hope to see a richness and integrity of experience, not just the knowledge of how to feel less discomfort while passing time.

Having said that, I also believe that helping to release suffering in life is a goal worthy even of a Buddha! Simply acting as a facilitator and a witness to the transformation of suffering in another person (through any respectful method) is a great blessing.

GDF: I believe that you were the first and may yet be the only person in the world to have been trained in and to use in your work all four of what some are calling the "power therapies". Have you developed a preference?

KMS: I've found EMDR to be especially good when dealing with issues that lasted over an extended period of time, such as a lengthy illness or a drawn-out divorce. On the other hand-and I think this is a curious reverse to the way TIR works-to process something with the EMDR protocol that occurred in the last couple of months, each scene in the incident may have to be addressed separately. This doesn't necessarily take very long, but for recent events I use TIR, which, by its nature, covers the entire incident scene by scene on each pass.

Most of the time I feel confident using TIR in single session work, if a client wants that. I wouldn't try any abreactive methods in the first session with someone who appeared to be suicidal, but otherwise I don't worry about overwhelming reactions coming up after a TIR session. If the viewer doesn't reach an end point during a session, she may be uncomfortable for a while, so it's important to be conscientious about reaching end points wherever possible. But I simply haven't experienced anything that seemed dangerous or heard reports of such an occurrence from anyone else using TIR. TIR either sticks with one event to its full resolution or , if necessary, progresses in a tightly focused way through a chain of similar incidents to a "root" incident, which is then resolved.

Shapiro cautions EMDR practitioners to consider each client's support systems outside of sessions in case of an unexpected abreaction, and not to treat EMDR as a one-session therapy. I appreciate EMDR's emphasis on a comprehensive treatment approach, but I also like being able to give an uncomplicated TIR session to friends and colleagues, or to clients coming in briefly from out of town. There are a lot of people who are basically in good shape but have had something happen that's troubling them, and others who would like to experience the technique for themselves, out of professional curiosity.

I'm happy to offer TIR to my fellow counselors, and they tend to be surprised at how much they get out of it, even from one session on a topic that they may have thought was "no big deal". Of the last twenty-five colleagues to whom I have given sessions, twenty-four have gone on to take the TIR workshop. It's a lot easier to let someone experience TIR for herself than it is to describe it adequately.

Back to the comparison with other types of work: I often see people who have experienced other kinds of in-depth counseling in the past and who therefore expect to feel drained or emotionally unstable after a TIR session. Typically, they're surprised at how bright, energized and complete they feel instead, even if the session had rough parts along the way.

After a little over a year of using Thought Field Therapy, I've reached the conclusion that TFT can indeed work very quickly. I use a variety of TFT procedures, known as "algorithms"-fixed sequences of simple actions designed to address specific issues such as past trauma, anger or guilt . A somewhat longer algorithm is intended to cover all possibilities. You can often get a good result in a few minutes with TFT and, if not, at least you haven't wasted much time. I've been impressed by seeing clients go from a "ten" rating on a scale of zero to ten (where ten is great distress and zero is none) to a "zero" in five minutes or less. TFT is the first approach I'd try in working with a simple phobia.

I like the fact that people can easily learn to use TFT on themselves, so it's a useful coping skill between sessions. Repeating the algorithm is not hard to do, although sometimes clients don't seem to want to use it even when they know how.

TFT is especially good for people who don't want to re-experience a trauma in any form or who don't want to talk about it. I use TFT with myself or friends, relatives or acquaintances when I'm in a public or informal situation or don't have enough time to take another approach. TFT is also an option if a client gets too upset or doesn't come to a point of resolution during another type of session. This offers some insurance in case you have to work within time limitations. I know that some EMDR practitioners have used TFT this way.

GDF: Have you made any observations concerning the relative permanence or stability of results between, say, TFT and TIR?

KMS: In my own experience-which, I should add, is limited-TIR results have been more permanent than one-time treatments of TFT. TIR doesn't have to be repeated once an end point is reached in a session, although, of course, entirely new material or related themes may arise and need to be addressed. Others have found that TFT results are lasting, though, and I'd say that the majority of my TFT treatments, where I have stayed in touch with the client, have held up also.

My success rates with TFT would probably be even higher were I to go through Dr. Callahan's complete diagnosis training, but that material is confidential, and at this point I'm not willing to learn anything that I can't myself share with everyone else who could use it responsibly.

It's so easy to learn the basics of TFT-it requires only a one-day workshop, or one can simply follow the directions that Dr. Figley posted to the Traumatic Stress Forum-- that this is something I'd recommend that anyone use, along with everything else that they find to be effective.

GDF: And what has your experience been with V/KD?

KMS: I use V/KD less often than the other methods these days, although I learned it even before I learned TIR. I find this to be a very safe approach for people who have difficulty in facing a traumatic memory directly , since it emphasizes "anchoring" to a sense of strength and well-being and distancing oneself when watching the incident. Especially for those with an extensive history of abuse, this may be a less threatening way to start.

Most of the time I prefer TIR, though, because the end points seem more clear and complete. I've found that V/KD helps, but maybe I'm hooked on that dramatic shift that occurs around a TIR end point. I've had a few clients who went through V/KD and then went back over the same incident with TIR, once they felt safer.

When a safe environment is created-metapsychology's Rules of Facilitation[2] help with this-most people find that they are, in fact, willing and able to view their traumatic incidents and learn from them. I think it's inevitable that any attempt to describe TIR makes it sound like more of an ordeal than it actually is. It can definitely get intense, and uncomfortable at certain points, but personally I've jumped at the chance to get a TIR session whenever I've had the opportunity. As I said earlier, I'm interested in completely going through my experience, rather than getting away from it. And I've heard clients comment that although an experience had been painful, they found something of great value from it after they no longer had to experience the pain. I believe that pain serves a purpose in getting our attention, but that once we've truly paid attention we no longer need to suffer.

GDF: Because of the person-centered rules governing its use, the application of metapsychology called "viewing" has proven to be relatively tolerant of dual relationships between client and practitioner. More than one trained facilitator has taken advantage of that fact by "co-facilitating"-arranging to meet with another facilitator in order to give and receive reciprocal sessions over a period of time. Have you had that experience?

KMS: Yes! I've really enjoyed that aspect of our work. Because metapsychology so clearly defines roles and rules during viewing sessions, I've been able to work not only with other facilitators but with friends and family as well. I believe that doing this has brought us closer. Even with those I've known for many years, the viewing sessions brought out dimensions of people that I had never witnessed before. Human beings are incredible; I'm at a loss for words to describe the truth of who we are.

In metapsychological work, in contrast to some other types of counseling, the viewer, not the facilitator, is considered the "expert". Even though viewers may confront what they consider to be the worst in themselves, it is the most beautiful qualities in human nature that then typically emerge. In my experience, whatever material people are working with, they leave a metapsychology session with their dignity intact.

GDF: Can you describe an instance of co-facilitation you've done?

KMS: At the four day professional TIR training that I teach, I often volunteer as a demonstration subject for a student to practice with in front of the group. I've enjoyed this enormously. Even with a new facilitator, an audience, and some attention on being responsible for the group, I've gotten wonderful results as a viewer. During a recent workshop I gave in Santa Fe, I got a session of Thematic TIR from one of the students in which I addressed "the feeling that I don't know what I'm doing"; it related specifically to a sensation I had had a couple of times during that same workshop. At the session's end, I found myself laughing and feeling deeply grateful that I've gone ahead with so many new things in my life without fully knowing what I was getting into!

One apparent consequence of my having done that is that in their evaluations of the workshop, most of the participants mentioned that, in addition to learning a valuable method, they appreciated my human vulnerability and candidness. As one student put it: "I don't need methods or teachers to be perfect and smooth. I do need them to be honest, authentic, accountable, and to do what they say they will." I know that along with building my confidence in being able to help, this work keeps me in a state of humility as I confront my own complications-and I'm amazed at the strength we have to resolve and move on in the simplicity of truth.

GDF: Any other sessions of co-facilitation come to mind?

KMS: Recently I had a visit from a colleague who was feeling burned out in her work. We addressed her burnout in one session of EMDR and one session which included TIR and "Unblocking"-a brief metapsychological procedure-and she felt bright and enthusiastic about her work again.

I think that many mental health professionals lose their excitement about their work because of trying to do an enormous job with insufficient tools. Even with state-of-the art techniques, there are times when we don't achieve everything we hope for. Still, it's a lot easier to get over the rough spots when we see "miracles" on a regular basis.

GDF: What sorts of issues, interests, or concerns do you think co-facilitation might be expected to address fruitfully?

KMS: There are really far too many possibilities to list. Name an issue, and if there isn't already a procedure designed to address that, we can probably create one, based on metapsychological principles and patterns. Some very common issues that I've seen addressed very successfully with Unblocking [see above] include "your husband/ wife", "your mother/father ", "your job", "graduate school" and "your body". And I've seen equally wonderful results come from addressing areas such as "honoring yourself".

The variety of issues that could be addressed in a viewing session are only limited by the imagination and courage of the viewer and the facilitator. If I run out of ideas, I can always e-mail a note to you or one of the other CMF's [Metapsychology Facilitators, certified by the Institute -Ed.] and I'm sure we'd come up with something.

GDF: As you know, Dr. Gerbode has made it clear he feels that TIR is best and most accurately viewed not as a therapy but as a form of education . Would you agree?

KMS: Well, in all Metapsychology work we are simply setting up conditions which allow one's natural abilities to function and one's strengths and goodness to come through. The word "educate" comes from the Latin words for "pull", or "lead"...and "away", or "out of". The Rules of Facilitation[2] forbid any form of evaluation or interpretation on the part of the facilitator, and the act of facilitating viewing consists only in asking questions and giving simple directions to assist the viewing process. So that's really what we are doing --drawing knowledge out of the client that he or she already possesses but has previously lacked the means to access . It's certainly education, and a wonderful updating of the Socratic method. Viewing, in fact, provides a form of "integrative learning" in which the viewer, rather than acquiring new data, aligns and integrates the data she already has in a more optimal fashion.

On the other hand, I have to state that although Dr. Gerbode describe it as educational rather than therapeutic, TIR is very effective in reaching some of the common goals of therapy.

GDF: How do you feel about the relationship between the roles of client and practitioner?

KMS: I try not to operate on the medical model of seeing people in need of "repair". I've been told by clients that they appreciate this, and it also makes colleagues more comfortable in getting viewing sessions with me. In the TIR workshop, some colleagues have mentioned that they became aware of their own unintentionally patronizing attitudes toward clients. When I talk about viewers or clients, I refer to "us", rather than "them".

Everyone I know has experienced traumatic stress as a result of events that were overwhelming and which left unwanted effects. It's perfectly normal to react to such experiences in a number of ways, including developing emotional triggers and limiting beliefs. Like Gerbode, I see PTSD as just a relatively severe degree of this phenomenon and not as something separate and unique.

Among human beings of whatever culture, I see our similarities as far outweighing our differences-especially when you get down to what's really going on beyond appearances.

You didn't ask me, but is it OK if I talk for a moment here about a different but related topic?

GDF: Sure.

KMS: I believe that TIR and all the other tools of metapsychology can be used responsibly and effectively by people without professional credentials. The qualities I value most in a facilitator are courage and a true commitment to help. If a person has these, he or she will be likely to get excellent results even with just the four-day TIR workshop. The procedures will get results as long as the basic principles taught along with the TIR procedure in the workshop are also consistently applied. After all, our aim is to work with those things that people can see and verify for themselves.

In my opinion, there will never be enough licensed professional therapists to help all those who need it. Metapsychological tools such as TIR and Unblocking are far too valuable and --when correctly handled-- too safe to restrict their use only to those with academic and professional backgrounds.

After working with the professional counselors associations, it's become clear to me that laws governing our work have been developed not only to serve the public but also to protect the vested interests of practitioners.

I've taught the TIR workshop not only to psychologists who have been practicing "since the dinosaurs" but also to ministers, graduate students, and holistic health practitioners...and to those with no mental health backgrounds whatsoever. And sometimes the hardest people to train are professionals with many years of experience, although once they let go of some long-standing habits, they have the advantage of being able to integrate TIR into treatment programs that utilize their other skills. Some of the toughest students I've had are now the most enthusiastic and effective promoters of TIR.

All of which leads me back to co-facilitation, an option very much available to laypersons. I haven't done nearly as much of it as I would like, and I'm looking forward to the time when there are more fully trained metapsychology facilitators in my own area. Flagstaff already has a pretty good per capita rate of TIR facilitators-29 for 60,000 residents-and some of them are interested in continuing their training. It's really starting to happen!

GDF: Did you feel that the role changes involved in the co-facilitation you've done were a problem or not? If not, can you state what it is about the approach that makes it possible to function comfortably in such a setting?

KMS: Usually I've had no problem with the role changes. Both of us (facilitator and viewer) know the rules, and the purpose of the activity is for the viewer to have attention free to inspect her own reality, rather than to focus on the interpersonal dynamics.

On a couple of occasions I have found myself a bit self-conscious and have had some attention on a facilitator who was also a friend or colleague, and I think that this has slowed down the process. However, at those times I was also trying to squeeze in a session while I was physically tired. That really makes a difference. There's a reason why the Rules of Facilitation[2] demand that we make sure that viewers are well rested and fed. But in the real world, sometimes you just do the best you can with the conditions you face.

The factors I see as being most helpful-no, essential-in permitting such work over dual roles are strict adherence to the Rules of Facilitation and conscientious use throughout sessions of the Communication Exercises (C.E.'s) that are an integral part of learning TIR. You have to really be able to be present without judgment, and those tools make it possible.

GDF: Would you recommend co-facilitation to other professionals?

KMS: Sure, as long as they keep the boundaries clear and understood, follow the Rules of Facilitation, use the C.E.'s, and both viewer and facilitator feel comfortable and enthusiastic about the arrangement. Although the focus in facilitation is not on the interpersonal relationship between facilitator and viewer, co-facilitation is a way for two people to get to know each other in a profound way. And of course, from a practical standpoint, it's a wonderful way to get a lot of personal benefit without spending a lot of money.

GDF: What caveats would you offer co-facilitators?

KMS: I wouldn't recommend co-facilitation for everyone. As with other viewing, no one should be pressured into trying this. It may be preferable to have your close friends or relatives work with another, more impersonal, facilitator, if one is available. Both participants need to be clear about the roles and boundaries.

Ideally, you want the viewer to have as little attention as possible on the facilitator, and all their attention free for looking at elements of their own reality.

It's especially important in these cases that anything that happens in a session has no consequences outside of the session. The viewing is likely to progress more slowly, if at all, if the viewer is worried or self-conscious about what they are saying or doing. So the nature of the issue being addressed is important. If a husband and wife were both trained facilitators, one might easily take the other into session to handle the emotional aftermath of an accident in which the first had not been involved, but they would probably choose not to work with, say, a situation in their marriage that was affecting both of them. In any event, both inside and outside of the viewing sessions, the relationship needs to be straightforward, caring and respectful. I don't see these requirements as essentially different from the usual Rules of Facilitation[2] that we teach and emphasize in all TIR trainings.

GDF: Has your work been affected by the "False Memory" debate?

KMS: Some colleagues of mine are afraid that they may have to change the methods and issues they work with. I believe that in TIR we have some advantages that have kept us clear of "false memory" problems so far. We never suggest that a certain type of memory is either valid or invalid, and we don't make interpretations for the client, or confirm or dispute their view of their memories. I would never claim that memories that arise in a TIR session are always factually accurate; in fact, I'm sure that sometimes accurate information is retrieved, and other times vivid "memories" may not be completely factual -- although they might, for instance, be meaningful for the viewer on a emotional or metaphorical level.

In my experience, viewers who have brought incidents to a complete resolution have subsequently had no interest in taking anyone to court over events from the past. If they need to do something to keep themselves or anyone else safe, so far they have been able to do that without involving legal action.

While I disagree with some of the tactics used by those who are concerned about "false memories", I also get disturbed when I hear from clients --a minority, but not as small a one as I'd like-- who tell me that their former therapist suggested that they must have been sexually abused as a child, or who have read in a book that their symptoms point to that probability. These clients had tried unsuccessfully to recall such incidents. In our work together, such clients typically locate incidents of a non-sexual nature which fully explain their apparent "symptoms of abuse", at which point those symptoms usually vanish.

GDF: In your work with trauma, you hear about some terrible things. How do you keep your spirits up?

KMS: I do hear some horrible and heartbreaking stories. Sometimes I think I've heard it all, and then something else will come along that challenges my view of how much human cruelty is possible. Sometimes it gets to me for a while, usually when I hear from someone I don't have the opportunity to work with, or hear about something that happened to a person or an animal that isn't present.

If things get too tough, I know that I can get a viewing session and feel relieved. That fact alone makes the world seem less frightening.

In my work as a facilitator I have nearly all of my attention on the viewer, on doing my job of staying present in the moment and of helping the viewer to direct her attention toward what she needs to look at. The communication exercises taught in the TIR workshop make it easier for me to do this without having my own stuff triggered. And having the opportunity to help people through their suffering to a state of peace or joy makes all the difference for me.

Strangely enough, the more I hear about death, disaster and loss, and then see brightness emerge as that suffering is released, the better I feel. When a viewer walks out smiling and full of light, I'd guess I feel about as good as they do. In a sense, the trauma is resolved for both of us. Amazing!

As a child, I had some awareness that the world is full of trouble. Even though I now know more details of the misery that we inflict on each other and ourselves, I also have a better view of the triumph of human beauty. And while I do worry about the state of life on this planet and see an enormous need for change, at least I can know I'm doing a little bit to help. I'd like to do a lot more, so that's why I'm training other facilitators and workshop leaders.

If the kind of relief and transformation I see in my office were available to everyone, I believe the world would be greatly transformed as well. I'm working toward that day-toward a world that I would want my children to live in.

Over and over, this work gives me the chance to see the worst and the very best in people. I'm constantly amazed at the ability people have not only to survive terrible events, but to come through them with compassion, strength, and often profound insights.


1. Along with TIR (Traumatic Incident Reduction), V/KD (Visio/Kinesthetic Dissociation) and TFT (Thought Field Therapy), EMDR is one of four "Power Therapies" investigated by Drs. Charles Figley and Joyce Carbonell in their ground-breaking 1994-6 Active Ingredients Project at Florida State University. EMDR was developed by Dr. Shapiro.

2. Metapsychology's Rules of Facilitation are designed to create a safe enough "space" in a session so that the client's attention need be only on looking for herself. Among other things, the Rules strictly enjoin all forms of disputation, interpretation, and evaluation on the part of the practitioner. A detailed description of these rules is available here.