mental health, therapy, counseling and psychology terms glossary

Progressive Approach

The Progressive Approach is a technique used in preparation for treating complex trauma and dissociation with EMDR. Its process includes using small interventions as the therapist begins to recognize the client’s internal defense systems so that they may safely and effectively reprocess the client’s traumatic experiences or events.

How Does the Progressive Approach Work?

This approach uses ‘parts work’. The clinician will help the client connect to ‘parts of their self’ to see if these parts-of-self are connected to memories. If they discover that they are connected, that will make them dissociative trauma parts-of-self.

In therapy using EDMR and the Progressive Approach combined, if the client becomes blocked by a dissociative part, the therapist can guide the client in giving clarity in understanding the part-of-self that needs it, as well as help to process that memory.

These parts-of-self cannot tell the difference between then and now. When triggered, their response seems “as if the house is still burning down” when it may not have been a concern for years. Ultimately, this can lead to a struggle with internal conflict, self-doubts, and overthinking situations and needs. 

When working with dissociated parts, using the Progressive Approach (when needed) allows the client to “re-parent” that part-of-self whose basic needs were not met. They can identify where they are located or what they are feeling, provide those needs, and most importantly, time orient that part-of-self to the present day and the resources and people they have now.

What Conditions is the Progressive Approach Used to Treat?

Using EMDR and the Progressive Approach together, allows someone to not only reprocess these significant moments that developed their personality but more importantly gain internal calibration by decreasing internal conflict and creating empathy and understanding with all parts-of-self. The Progressive Approach is effective in treating complex trauma, depression, hopelessness, anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, substance abuse, eating disorders, etc.

Interested in learning if EMDR and the Progressive Approach may benefit you?