Building the Bridge from Treatment to Transformation
Relational EMDR Therapy℠ uses the relationship between therapist and client as a central element to help clients who struggle with low self-esteem, relationships, and self-regulation by actively accompanying them on their journey towards healing. This parallel process is a memory-in-the-making for therapists and clients alike, making it a shared experience beyond the resolution of the traumatic memories the client is reprocessing. The Self of the therapist plays an integral role in the client's healing journey and is considered an active ingredient in creating the conditions that make it possible for our clients to "go there." So the question we pose as relational EMDR therapists isn't "is the client ready," but, "are we ready to embark on this journey together?"
Relational EMDR Combines Symptom Relief with Emotional Repair
In more traditional EMDR, our primary objective is reduce or eliminate distress offering symptom relief that allows the client to resume their normal activities of daily living. When it's over, it's truly over and in the past. For many others, however, relief does not come as readily because there was never a time that life wasn't difficult. Instead, they've cycled through many periods of stability and instability, both on the inside as well as on the outside. That's where Relational EMDR Therapy℠ comes in. As a relational EMDR therapist, we focus on how we're showing up with our clients that takes the process to a whole new level — that is, using our attunement skills to co-regulate the client's experience that makes healing possible.
Relational EMDR—When Staying Out of the Way Is Not Enough
Relational EMDR Therapy℠ comes into play when we work with problems that are not due to discrete, single-event traumas. They have deep roots in early, formative attachment wounds where the client was hurt and there was no repair. Developmental milestones didn’t get met and as children, didn’t get the kind of attention and support they needed. And they're still missing those guideposts as adults. These are the clients who suffer from complex developmental trauma. For them, our staying out of the way is still important, but it’s not sufficient. They need us to help make them whole.
Relational EMDR Fills in What’s Needed
Instead of just asking, "What's happening now," the relational EMDR therapist might also ask, “Can you put words to what you're experiencing in this moment as you're telling me about it?” You ask not because the client is stuck, but because it helps them have a new experience of being met in the moment, repairing the old attachment wounds while being held by the exquisite presence and attention of the therapist.
Relational EMDR is Restorative and Corrective
Relational EMDR Therapy℠ helps clients come into their own relationship with Self as well as with others. That spontaneous authenticity of the emergent Self is a moment of meeting that, when it happens, is a synergy that is greater than the sum of their parts for therapist and client alike. Like Plato says, the greatest gift is being the midwife to the soul in another person. For some of our most traumatized clients, it's truly a spiritual journey that requires us, as therapists, to bring our best authentic selves to this work.
The Self of the Therapist is Integral to the Client's Journey
It's not enough to know what we're doing, we have to know how to be. Being present, not just as an observer, but as a witness. Not just as a support, but as a co-regulator of the client's experience. Not just to lance the wound, but to add the balm that helps it heal. It's about being brave enough to shepherd our clients through the darkness of their pain while holding up a beacon of light. That means we have to work on ourselves so we can bring our highest Self to this work.