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Interview Questions on IEMT and MoM

Interview with Andrew T. Austin, creator of IEMT and director of the Association.

1. You were trained in Hypnotherapy and NLP, how did you develop Metaphors of Movement and IEMT (Integral Eye Movement Therapy), which are more experiential approaches to therapy?

In the mid-1990s I became aware of EMDR and began exploring that. What was apparent to me was how quickly a traumatic experience could be dissolved by simply thinking about it and simultaneously moving your eyes.  It's a simple technique that the EMDR people managed to turn into an entire psycho-theology. I began to look at how else this could be applied and gave particular attention to the occasions where the process did not work. For example, it didn't appear to work on any anxiety-provoking anticipatory issue, such as an upcoming job interview or a driving exam.

As a result, I began to build models of the different category of problems treatable by the eye movements and develop effective treatment protocols for each of those models. It was some years later that a local doctor sent me a large number of chronic anxiety patients from his practice. These patients appeared entirely resistant to all treatment that had been tried so far, and to my disappointment, I too was unable to help them. However, the data I collected from these sessions enabled me to develop what became the most central aspect of the IEMT model - The Five Patterns of Chronicity.

The patterns of chronicity are those patterns that clients with long term intractable problems tend to display. What the behavioural patterns have in common is that they incapacitate any therapeutic attempts to help with the problem, regardless of the nature of the problem and regardless of the therapeutic intervention. By addressing these patterns directly with IEMT, we enable a more natural and spontaneous healing to occur.

It is the attention to the Patterns of Chronicity that differentiates IEMT from all other eye movement models, although I am now seeing this work get absorbed into these fields, usually without credit or reference to source.

So at the time, I was developing the Patterns of Chronicity work, I had already been touring around the UK teaching a one-day workshop based on what I knew of the eye movement technique. The new data from the chronicity work expanded this into a 2-day practitioner training with subsequent days for the more advanced applications.

As the work continued to develop it went deeper and deeper into the realms of identity, and the eye movements featured less and less. So, to maintain clarity I decided to split the new work off into a new model, and eventually, this evolved into Metaphors of Movement which is an evolving model that primarily focuses on identity and behaviour work.

The trigger for the metaphorical beginnings of the new work came from conversations Charles Faulkner which opened up a new area of linguistic exploration that I had largely been ignorant to previously.

2. You said that IEMT (Integral Eye Movement Therapy) is used when the client has the problem casted upon him, from the outside and Metaphors of Movement is used when the client is making his own problems. Can you please elaborate on this?

There is a tendency for therapists to form an opinion about the nature of problems.  Back in the days of EST, an attitude was taken that there is no such thing as an innocent victim, we all contribute to our suffering no matter what. The EST position was that you must take total responsibility for your situation and own it. So for example, if one was attacked in the street, one would need to take responsibility for having taken the actions and choices that placed them there in the first place. EST was quite brutal in its methods, but people seemed to get a lot from it. Many people became empowered where previously empowerment had not been made available to them.  The EST attitude is all well and good, and long as it is a choice taken willingly by those involved and not imposed upon others who do not choose this.

An example of this imposition is the scenario of victim blaming. What did you do to him to make him attack you? What was the rape victim wearing? Why didn't you lock the car? You should have got a taxi home and not walked, and so on. We frequently see this in the positive thinking mindset where the attitude seems to be that a positive mindset will cure all disease and disharmony, thus if you get ill, it is because you didn't think the right things. It is your fault you get cancer. You should have relaxed more.

A good friend mine of mine died recently of lung cancer, and when I've told people this, the first question they ask me is, "was he a smoker?" Mostly they don't realise the implication of what they are saying to me. It's a common thoughtlessness. With regards to my own chronic health problems, I have lost count of how many people have told me what psychological method or technique I should try. People just love their simple explanations, they like to feel that they understand even if they don't.

Meanwhile, there is the more complex social-constructivist model which takes the view that environment is the force that needs to be changed and unless this occurs, people cannot be held responsible for their suffering. Social constructivist theory posits that better employment, education, health care, housing and so on are key for improving mental and emotional welfare.  Social inequality makes social deprivation and the resultant problems inevitable, so to hold those individuals responsible for their problems is another form of victim blaming.

Thus poorly educated, chronically unemployed people with little social privilege as more likely to be seen as active contributors to their suffering by the privileged social classes looking down upon them. Whilst social constructivism holds social inequality, governance and the law responsible for the problems.

All problems exist on a spectrum. At one end there is environment acting as a force upon us, at the other end is us, acting as a force upon the environment.

The reason I give this rather lengthy answer is because it is something that so many practitioners have not studied or thought about much. They often will have an opinion that has been selected for them by their social class and position within society. It is something we need to be really careful about and it is something we can so easily get wrong. Sadly, it is a caution I see so rarely exercised in the world of therapy and personal change training.

Having said that, I offer this.  I tend to use IEMT when the problems that the client faces are results of things happening to them (i.e. life traumas), and MoM is for when dealing with problems that the individual is contributing to through their behaviours and identity roles.

To put it another way: IEMT is largely remedial work for unpleasant feelings (with some generative change with the identity modules) and MoM is largely generative for behaviour and identity (with some remedial work for unpleasant feelings).

Or, to put it into the vernacular, when life f*cks you up, use IEMT, when you are f*cking up your life, use MoM.

3. “Metaphors of Movement” why do you think that movement is so important that you devoted an entire therapeutic approach to it?

There is a secret encoded in the name that is only really revealed through the training and learning the model in depth. The name originated from a reference that Steve Andreas wrote in a blog post about one of my early presentations before I had a name for the work I was developing. It had a nice sound to it so adopted it as the title of the work.  At the time, the work was focusing attention on "stuck states", problems of an emotional nature that rendered the person unable to move forwards in their lives. It was later that I learned that back in 2005 Charles Faulkner had titled one of his pieces of work "Worlds Within a Word: The Metaphors of Movement and Change" so perhaps the adoption of this title for my work was unfortunate, but still, it caught on and remains in place to this day.

Today, the work has developed much beyond that of movement, but Metaphors of Movement works well as the overall brand name for the work.

 4. One important concept of the Metaphors of Movement approach is that of Boundary Violations, can you tell us a bit about that?

Much like the IEMT Patterns of Chronicity emerged from the IEMT work to take a central role, Boundary Violations (BVs) didn't emerge from the MoM work for some years. Now they have been codified, they are central to the MoM work. To explain BVs in any meaningful way would require quite a lot of time, hence the explanation is best left to the training room.

 5. Your approach, Metaphors of Movement, has applications in other fields than therapy, such as business and money. How do you see the relationship between a therapeutic approach and the business field?

Therapy is people communicating people, business is people communicating with people. MoM is heavily involved with an exploration of human communication, developing enormously on the themes started with NLP. Whilst MoM won't enable you to know about how to run a business, develop a business and so on, it can help enormously with the understanding what is communicated and intended by either the customer or those employed and operating within the business frame.

As such the best application of MoM to business in the area of management to ensure suitable communication channels are maintained and the received messages are congruent with those that are intended. A common problem in any human endeavour is so often what we intend to communicate and what is understood to have been communicated don't always align with each other.  MoM can effectively resolve this difficulty.

6. In your opinion, what are the qualities of an effective therapist? What does a therapist need to be, to do and have to be competent?

I still do not know the answer to this question, despite having thought about it numerous times over the years. One thing most therapists and coaches could do to improve is to be willing to study a lot harder and look much deeper into the subjects involved in their therapy work.

I think less ego and more humility would be nice too. And if they could have a bit more of a sense of theatre, that would be even better.

Something Charles Faulkner advised me, study acting.  I did, and it was one of the most useful things I did as a therapist.  Trained actors know all the stuff about human psychology that psychologists and therapists are too important to notice.

Thank you to Alex Manea for the questions. For information about Metaphors of Movement training in Romania, please see: 

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