THE TWO HAND INTERWEAVE CLINICAL INTERVENTION
The Two Hand Interweave is a technique I have used and taughtmore frequently than any other intervention. I learned about the two hand interweave in my first EMDR consultation experience, and it has many adaptations. Developed and written about in Robin Shapiro LICSW’sbook EMDR Solutions: Pathways to Healing (2005; see Resources) as well as referenced in Jim Knipe's chapter in that book on targeting positive affect in in the same book.
This EMDR book and the follow up book, EMDR Solutions II, are essential to your EMDR library! Robin edits a number of critical EMDR approaches, including Roy Kiessling’s RDI chapter, A. J. Popky’s DeTur protocol for addictions, a wonderful chapter by Elizabeth Turner on EMDR for children using storytelling, art and other techniques, and Chapter 6, The Two Hand Interweave, by Robin Shapiro herself. Get the books, I highly recommend them!
Robin Shapiro uses the Two Hand Interweave when a client is stuck between two varying positions, ambivalent about choices, NC/PC, past/present view of self or others, and other adaptations. In a more recent book Easy Ego State Interventions: Strategies for Working with Parts, (2016), she expands on the use of the two hand interweave in many creative ways. In hosting Robin’s workshop by the same name, she demonstrated, to rave reviews, how she creatively, skillfully, and yes, easily, integrates this tool to assist clients with their many mixed, ambivalent feelings about a plethora of issues. This includes ambivalence about EMDR therapy, processing difficult events, indecision about present and future choices, as well as many other very powerful interventions. Contact her through her website EMDR Solutions for more information or to bring this amazing workshop to your area!
This interweave reminds me of the gestalt two chair technique I learned early in my mental health training. Remember, we use interweaves to ‘nudge’ the client’s AIP when they need assistance. Ask the client to place one side of their ambivalence in one hand, and the other side in the other hand. I usually ask the client to to choose. Most typically put the more adaptive part of the ambivalence on their more dominant side. You can just say: ' Let your mind curiously go back and forth and notice what is in each of your hands and tell me what you notice." Let them do this using processing speed BLS until they are ready to stop.
I haven’t had a client who did not have the more positive side become stronger and the more disturbing side decrease. It could happen but IMO is rare. Robin reports in her chapter that 95 % of the time, this technique helps clients resolve conflicting feelings, emotions, thoughts, beliefs, and so on.
Examples of stuck ‘splits’ when I have used this technique include:
-the traumatized child who is at fault vs. the adult who knows s/he is not
-to stay or not to stay—decision making in a job, relationship, etc
-when there is no movement with the NC and PC, placing each in one hand and processing
-peaceful place either visually or somatically vs. disturbing place in trauma
-physical sensations that will not resolve, best part of keeping/worst part of experiencing as aspects of each
-using it for parts of self in internal conflict about addressing issues, emotions, and so on.
Many situations where client is stuck in ambivalence or has conflicting feelings that in the processing stages of EMDR do not resolve can benefit from this therapist interweave.
One of my EMDR clients became stuck when his spiritual resources went unresponsive in session, exactly what he has been stuck in his experience of his spirituality in recent years. We’d been able to successfully process for 4-6 sessions before this impasse. Usually clients are stuck now in ways they were stuck then even if they identify it as present only. Remember, the past is present so it is not about now. This client aslo had adult adverse experiences in his spiritual community that had confused and challenged his spiritual framework.
I asked him to go back to when he had a good connection. He called this the “real God’ and the other, unresponsive God the “confusing God.” I asked him to place one on the left and one on the right, letting him choose (Robin has the client choose also). Sometimes I take a SUDS about the level of conflict and sometimes not, this time I didn’t. Then I say “notice that” and do sets until, usually, the more positive one gains power and/or the SUDS goes down. This client had the ‘confusing God’ go gray and finally disappear while the “real God” gained clarity and power, resolving disturbance in emotions and body completely. This client didn’t need further information in setting up the two hand interweave, but some ask, “What do you want me to do with the two sides?” I tell them “just notice” or “let the two sides interact.”
Another adaptation (source unknown, from communication by Susan Deane Miller) of the Two Hand Interweave has the person hold their peaceful place in one hand and the idea of processing trauma in the other. Without BLS, you have them bring their two hands together until the SUDS elevates to a 3. Repeat, each time noting that the hands take a shorter distance to elevate. When the client can hold the two hands together with the SUDS at 3, then you can start BLS processing on the issue.
Read Robin’s books, access her for consultation, and consider attending her workshops to learn more!
Bonnie Mikelson LISW
Director, EMDR & Beyond