IADC Therapists, like all those who work in the helping professions, tend to be empathic creatures. We get joy and satisfaction out of seeing our clients do well. We’re fascinated by the process of successful therapy, and we relish the progress and therapeutic successes.
Since being inspired by Dr Allan Botkin when I first heard him interviewed on Sandra Champlain’s We Don’t Die podcast, and reading his amazing book Induced After Death Communication: A Miraculous Therapy for Grief and Loss, I eventually knew I had to be trained in this life-changing modality. Not only did it seem extraordinary in its potential to heal, but it addressed the biggest roadblock I’ve ever encountered since first being registered as a clinical psychologist: how to deeply and meaningfully assist people in grief.
After my training with César Valdez, I’ve had the great pleasure of helping many people through IADC Therapy. Here are some observations I’ve made:
IADC Therapy is powerful. It can work surprisingly quickly. Even within a single set of eye movement (or other types of bilateral stimulation such as tapping alternate hands), sadness can decrease markedly, to the point that the client assumes they are ‘blocking’ the sadness. It also doesn’t merely alleviate symptoms, it transforms them. In other words, not only does the sadness reduce, good feelings come in to replace them. Clients report overwhelming peacefulness, calm, and a sense of love. Sometimes, their crying transforms from intense sadness and distress to ‘happy’ tears. In 20 years of experience with psychotherapy, I’ve never seen cognitive behaviour therapy have that effect on anyone, let alone in the space of ninety minutes.
Many people are ambivalent about letting go of their sadness. I now really emphasise this point when screening clients. Are you really ready to let go of this sadness? Many people instinctively answer yes, but their true feelings may be less clear. Often people worry they might be judged by others if they function too well after a loss. They might feel guilty about laughing or feeling happy. They worry that by moving forward in life they might be ‘moving on’ from the person they still hold so dear. IADC Therapy doesn’t aim to remove the emotional connection, it aims to transform it from being defined by sadness, distress and loss to a sense of love, greater peace, and a sense of an ongoing bond.
IADC Therapy can be very successful without an ADC occurring. The primary purpose of IADC Therapy is to reduce sadness. I cannot emphasise this enough. Because the concept of ADCs is so appealing, it becomes the dominant focus for many clients. But healing sadness should always be the primary motivation of the client and therapist. ADCs are the ‘cherry on top’ of the therapy, and further facilitate healing, but they are not required for IADC Therapy to ‘work’ in providing therapeutic effects.
It works best when grief is the primary presenting issue. As any EMDR practitioner knows, eye movement is very good at ‘unlocking’ the emotion associated with trauma. Given IADC Therapy is a protocol derived from EMDR, it can and will unlock related and unrelated trauma if it hasn’t been addressed first. Sometimes a client’s trauma is the loss itself, but if the client presents without disclosing or addressing unrelated historical traumas, they could get in the way of processing sadness. This is why thorough screening is essential to ensure clients who commence therapy are very likely to benefit.
Prematurely judging the process of IADC Therapy interferes with it. Clients who are perfectionistic, or who go into therapy intensely grasping for an ADC, are prone to judge the outcome before it has had a chance to unfold. This stops the therapy from fully working. The receptive state that allows ADCs to unfold requires an absence of mental chatter and expectation, and an allowing of the experience to happen. ADCs are not subject to the control of the client or therapist. When one of my clients who typically had a ‘monkey mind’ described an unfamiliar (to her) state of ‘floating in space’ it was a sign that she was becoming more receptive, with the opportunity to better observe whatever might happen next.
Most people are unaware that ADC’s are common, naturally occurring, and healing. Recognised scholars in the field have revealed that after death communications are very common experiences: estimates suggest that between 30%-35% of the general population have had them (Woollacott et al., 2022). They are recognised for having healing potential, in particular because they facilitate a sense of connectedness, or ‘ongoing bonds’ which modern grief counsellors now recognise as a critical part of the healing process. The IADC Therapy protocol helps increase the likelihood that an ADC will occur for the client, albeit as part of a therapeutic agenda which aims to reduce the sadness associated with the client's loss.
Any taboo surrounding ADCs is a likely barrier to the uptake of IADC Therapy. Many people who experience ADCs spontaneously (for example, sleep ADCs) keep the experience to themselves. This non-disclosure serves the purpose of avoiding judgement or ridicule. But it also promotes the assumption that ADCs are rare, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Furthermore, it seems that health professionals may be ill-equipped to support people with these kinds of spiritually transformative experiences. ADCs have previously been described as ‘grief hallucinations’ which pathologises a very natural phenomenon and alienates the grieving person. It is also at odds with the way ADCs are described by those who have them: they are phenomenologically the opposite of hallucinations which tend to be disjointed, and lacking context or meaning. Education of health and medical practitioners should be a priority to help experiencers be understood and supported when they disclose ADCs, and also so those who are grieving can be provided with IADC Therapy as an option. The longer the taboo around ADC persists, the greater the barrier to the uptake of IADC Therapy.
All of the above observations have strengthened my commitment to ensure IADC Therapy is better known and understood, and that it becomes more widely recognised as an evidence-based intervention for grief.
Woollacott, M., Roe, C., Cooper, C. E., Lorimer, D., & Elsaesser, E. (2022). Perceptual phenomena associated with spontaneous experiences of after-death communication: Analysis of visual, tactile, auditory and olfactory sensations. EXPLORE, 18(4), 423-431