Controlled approach: How to help clients overcome phobias of internal taboos


For many clients, there are "internal-taboos" - issues they avoid rather than dealing with them [1]. Clients experience "phobic" responses when they approach these topics. They fear they will "fall-apart" [2][3]. Clients need security before we process these memories. EMDR have many ways to help them [4]. However, many are still phobic; defense mechanisms take over, causing suffering. "Controlled-Approach" is an AIP-informed adaptation of the standard-protocol to approach "Internal-Taboos". The method uses concepts from Internal-Family-System [5], Watkins’ Ego-States Theory [6], and controlled-approach cross-cultural concept [7].

"Controlled-Approach" is designed to help facilitate clients’ safe processing of "taboo-issues" or avoided traumatic events which they are unable to safely approach. The procedure deals with shame, guilt, and moral injuries.

Controlled-Approach directly targets the perceived distance between the client and the imagined processing of an event with the here-and-now felt sense of fear and danger this brings up. Standard processing of this target is completed before targeting the event itself. This procedure enables client to desensitize and reprocess the fear of approaching the event/issue before processing the memory itself. This protects the client from potential disassociation that might have been triggered by processing prematurely and reduces their fear of "falling-apart".

After this procedure, clients report that they are safely prepared to process memories that they had avoided. Videos, quantitative & qualitative reports presented.

"Controlled-Approach" is an efficient way to enhance client's ability to safely process previously unapproachable memories.






Tuly Flint

Original Work Citation

Flint, T. (2021, June). Controlled approach: How to help clients overcome phobias of internal taboos. Poster presented at the 20th EMDR Europe Association Conference, Virtual



“Controlled approach: How to help clients overcome phobias of internal taboos,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed January 29, 2022,

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