The Ideal Parent Figure Protocol (IPFP)
We are sharing information like this because we think it's very important to have the information here, share it with your treatment team or trauma work buddies, and consider what tools are available out there that might be useful for your health and healing. Being kept in the dark about potential tools for trauma work is not helping our community, and not helping educate our therapists.
Please approach all trauma work with caution. Please do not retraumatize your system in the search for relief!!
If you want to get more from this read about Memory Reconsolidation New before starting.
The Ideal Parent Figure Protocol (IPFP) is a guided imagery exercise designed to help individuals explore and create an image of the ideal parent figure. The exercise is based on the idea that a person's early experiences with their parents or caregivers can have a significant impact on their emotional and psychological development, and that creating an idealized version of a parent figure can help promote feelings of security, support, and emotional regulation.
The exercise involves imagining being born to a completely different family. The participant imagines one or more ideal parent figure(s) who are perfectly attuned to their needs, responsive to changes in their mood, and always available to provide emotional support and comfort. The ideal parent figure is depicted as being consistently present and stable, able to provide physical contact when desired and space when needed, and always happy to provide whatever support is necessary.
The protocol is typically conducted in a quiet, relaxing environment and is sometimes accompanied by soothing music or calming sounds. Participants are guided through a series of visualizations, imagining specific scenarios in which the ideal parent figure responds to their needs and provides emotional support.
The 5 base scenarios are:
- Safety and Protection
- Attunement (being fully seen and known)
- Reassurance & Soothing
- Expressions of Delight
- Unconditional Support & Encouragement
Research suggests (2017, below) that the Ideal Parent Figure Protocol can be an effective tool for promoting feelings of security, emotional regulation, and self-esteem. By creating a positive image of a parent figure who is always available and supportive, individuals may be better equipped to manage stress and difficult emotions, and to feel a sense of confidence and well-being.
How it is Used
Overall, the Ideal Parent Figure Protocol is a useful tool for those looking to explore and improve their emotional well-being, particularly those who have experienced challenging childhood experiences or who struggle with feelings of insecurity or self-doubt.
Plural systems may additionally find this visualization helpful if they do not have good role-models for how to care for their youngest system members. They may use their ideal parents from the visualization as role-models to help inform changes they may make in reparenting their own system members.
IPFP and Memory Reconsolidation
IPFP can lead to spontaneous memory reconsolidation New (MR).
It's best to approach MR with an attitude of experimentation & curiosity. Maybe something will "Click" — otherwise you'll have an interesting experience and perhaps learn something about yourself.
To get more reliable memory reconsolidation:
- Pick a target trauma memory or unmet need to focus on for memory reconsolidation
- take a SUDS Scale New and determine how one is "UNSAFE" New (see article) - any sensory information about the activation of the target memory or unmet need - what emotions, body-feelings, urges, etc. are there around the target
- ensure that each scenario reinforces the needs met in prior scenarios i.e. link all the learning together such as "Now that your ideal parents are meeting all your safety and security needs, you also find that they are…"
- pause between each scenario and call up the target memory or situation
- take a new SUDS score & try to access the UNSAFE feelings again if you can to see what has changed
- If there's a sudden drop of activation (or less feelings) around the target, repeat the same scenario at least 2 more times and check in again. That's obviously hitting home, and needs to be repeated.
- If the target SUDS drops to 0, or you can't find any UNSAFE feelings — double check the initial UNSAFE scan to make sure everything has been resolved.
There is no guarantee that this visualization technique will help anyone in particular and it can theoretically be retraumatizing if not prepared for it. We suggest bringing the idea of using it to one's professional team and using it in conjunction with appropriate supports in-place.
- This idea can be used with any attachment figures whether real or imaginary, since the exercise is already leveraging the power of imagination. It can be an ideal friend (or ideal best friend), ideal fairy guideparent, ideal teacher, ideal therapist, ideal partner, ideal adoptive parents, ideal caregiver, etc.
- Additional scenarios can be used aside from the base 5 to target specific unmet needs. We added being able to tell our ideal parents about unmet needs and things we wanted and having them react positively and try to help us get our needs met.
- Unmet needs met with IPFP do not need to be limited to early childhood.
- A client can bring specific issues to the IPFP even outside of therapy sessions.
- After initial sessions using IFPF, a client can take a recording home or make their own recording(s) that they can use on their own (per 2017 below).
- 2016 Brown & Elliott - Attachment Disturbances in Adults: Treatment for Comprehensive Repair (Amazon affiliate link)
- Book review in Psychology Today
- 2017 Federico Parra, Carol George, Khalid Kalalou, and Dominique Januel - "Ideal Parent Figure method in the treatment of complex posttraumatic stress disorder related to childhood trauma: a pilot study" 20% of C-PTSD clients with parental attachment problems experienced significant symptom reductions verified at 8-month followup after 5 sessions with access to recording of the IPFP recording. Flaw: only 17 subjects were studied (low n=). One participant was considered to be "worse" off after, but researchers thought this might also be because the participant broke through layers of denial. (Sometimes we get worse before we get better.)
- Dr. Daniel Brown's recording of the Ideal Parent Figure Protocol
Article created by Crisses with ChatGPT support. Based on Daniel Brown & David Elliott's IPFP and on modifications to it by Alun Parry (affiliate link).