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IADC Therapy and the Continuing Bonds Theory of Adaptation to Loss

It was once thought that coping with the death of a loved one meant acceptance of the loss, in the sense of an emotional detachment from the deceased.

It was believed that a healthy grieving process necessitated the bereaved to sever ties with the departed, work through the painful emotions, and eventually attain a state of closure. This model of grieving, often represented by stages leading to an 'acceptance' end point, encouraged individuals to move away from their bonds with the deceased and to invest their emotions in other relationships or pursuits. It was thought that clinging to the past and maintaining bonds with the deceased was a sign of maladaptive grieving, which could lead to complications such as prolonged grief or depression. This perspective, largely focusing on detachment and moving on, was seen as the pathway to restoring emotional equilibrium following a loss.

This view is now seen as antiquated in light of research which has turned the field of grief therapy 180 degrees, to now see the maintenance of continuing bonds with the deceased as a more healthy, adaptive approach.

Klass, Silverman & Nickman were among the pioneers of the Continuing Bonds theory. They introduced the notion that maintaining an ongoing relationship with the deceased could be a part of a healthy grieving process, challenging the earlier models that stressed detachment and moving on as the primary means to cope with loss. This theory of Continuing Bonds posits that individuals can find comfort and continue to have a fulfilling life while still maintaining a bond with the deceased.

Leading grief researcher Professor Bob Neimeyer suggests that making meaning of the loss – in some kind of personal, practical, or spiritual way – is a mechanism of healthy coping and adjustment in the bereaved. That is, when continuing bonds assist the grieving client to make meaning of the loss and integrate this into their current identity, it is predictive of better outcomes.

IADC therapy provides a mechanism of fostering continuing bonds and meaning making

IADC Therapy appears to be an excellent way to combine these advancements in our understanding of how to best help individuals adapt to grief and loss. In particular, IADC Therapy seems to do 5 things well:

1. Fostering Continuing Bonds:

IADC therapy provides a platform for individuals to experience a perception of communication with, or a sense of presence of, the deceased, thus fostering the continuing bonds that Klass and his colleagues discussed. Through facilitated experiences, individuals can maintain a comforting connection with their departed loved ones, which we know from research in after-death communications generally, is a natural and healthy aspect of the grieving process.

2. Facilitating Meaning-Making:

Neimeyer's emphasis on meaning-making finds a practical application in IADC therapy.

During the therapeutic sessions, individuals are encouraged to explore and understand the meaning and impact of their loss, and to address any “unfinished business”, thus facilitating a process of meaning reconstruction. As individuals perceive a reconnection with the deceased, they often gain insights that help them make sense of their loss, fostering a process of meaning-making.

3. Integrative Healing:

By intertwining the continuing bonds with the process of meaning-making, IADC therapy offers an integrative approach to healing. It allows individuals to not only maintain a bond with the deceased but also to derive meaning from their loss, which can be incredibly healing and empowering. This holistic approach addresses both the emotional and cognitive dimensions of grief, aiding individuals in navigating through their bereavement journey in a more balanced and adaptive manner.

4. Personalized Therapeutic Experience:

IADC therapy is tailored to the unique experiences and needs of each individual, thus aligning with the modern, personalized approach to grief therapy. The therapy sessions provide a safe and supportive environment where individuals can explore their grief, maintain their bonds with the deceased, and work towards making meaning of their loss.

5. Enhanced Coping and Acceptance:

As individuals find meaning in their loss while maintaining a comforting connection with the deceased, they often report enhanced coping and acceptance. And regardless of the presence or absence of an ADC, the bilateral stimulation in IADC Therapy can very rapidly reduce the sadness which is such a defining characteristic of grief.

As we continue to research and better understand IADC Therapy and other adaptive processes in adjustment to grief, we can better help grieving clients regain peace, hope for the future, and a greatly enhanced quality of life.

Reference List

Klass, D., Silverman, P. R., & Nickman, S. L. (Eds.). (1996). Continuing bonds: New understandings of grief. Taylor & Francis.

Neimeyer, R. A. (2001). Meaning reconstruction & the experience of loss. American Psychological Association.

Neimeyer, R. A. (Ed.). (2022). New techniques of grief therapy: Bereavement and beyond. Routledge.

Valdez, C. (2022). Induced After-Death Communication. In R. A. Neimeyer (Ed.), New techniques of grief therapy: Bereavement and beyond. Routledge.

Botkin, A. L. (2000). The induction of after-death communications utilizing eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing: A new discovery. Journal of Near-Death Studies, 18(3), 181-209.


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