Manuals are filled with rules, procedural steps and protocols and they are perfect for people who want a step-by-step approach, kind of like a recipe for a good meal. Anyone who’s trained with me has seen me pick up the EMDR manual and say—Here are the basic core elements of this model. Yes, you have to know them, but it's not enough. We're not just offering symptom relief. Symptom relief is important, but it's not sufficient. We have to bring ourselves to it so that our clients are not going through it alone. Not this time.
To go beyond basic training skills, you have to show up.
So what do I mean by “showing up?” I mean active attunement—not just tracking someone’s experience but relating to what the client is experiencing; not just being present but actively being in that experience with them.
What does “showing up” look like?
You have to be thoughtful when you’re showing up. As part of your active attunement, you’re feeling your way into where the client is and then looking for moments to help them stretch beyond what they already know and do out of habit. At the same time you’re making choices about pacing and timing. As you work, you’re asking yourself “What’s appropriate for this client at this moment?” “How much would be too much?” Here are a few examples few examples of work that is not in the EMDR manual:
- Take joining. Someone with avoidant attachment would find it scary to be joined. So to that person, you don’t say ‘What are you feeling now?’ Instead you’d say ‘Notice what you might be feeling now.’ That slight adjustment makes all the difference in the world, because you’re not asking them to do something that’s really hard for them. You’re extending an invitation for them to be curious about what they might be experiencing instead of having to notice it and report it to you in addition.
- Consider clients who learned, as a survival strategy, to sacrifice their inner life in order to function. What’s your first step? Do you say, “I want you to identify what you’re feeling and then tell me about it.” No, of course, not! Showing up means you remain open and curious and invite them to be curious too.
- Imagine a severely traumatized client who spent their entire childhood surviving rather than thriving. They didn’t just lose something that was good when bad things happened. They never had “the good” in the first place. They don’t know what’s possible. They just want to not feel so bad. Showing up and going beyond basic EMDR allows you to be a bridge to an experience of a larger world and offer a concept of the future that was foreclosed to them.
If you’re ready to go beyond the basics with your clients, we have a range of EMDR trainings that can get you there. Join us for your next steps!