The rain was beginning to really pour, and I eagerly stepped into the deluge. I was testing my rain gear, assessing my capacity to stay dry during hours of walking in the rain. I am preparing for my two-month, 500 mile walk on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. It is journey of self-exploration and personal growth. I will definitely experience all sorts of weather. So, preparation is critically important. I also need to know how it feels to carry 15 pounds of weight all day, every day. I need to know what shoes fit best, and how to navigate unknown terrain. All of this is preparation for my successful Camino.
In many ways this is exactly what therapists are working towards during the phase 2 preparation phase in EMDR therapy. We are preparing our clients for their own Camino… their own journey of self discovery. And before they begin that journey, the client must be prepared to handle any conditions/obstacles that may arise. Through preparation phase the client learns that they have what they need to do hard things. They learn how to access a calm state if things get too rough. They learn what they need and how to create a resource for that.
Like my planning, Phase 2 must be individualized. The clinician must determine what the client needs, and cater the preparation phase accordingly. Not everyone on the Camino wears the same shoes or carries the same backpack. The same is true with your clients. One client might need to create a felt sense of safety before beginning their journey. Another might require greater emotional regulation skills.
Phase 2 cannot be over emphasized. It will make or break success in the remaining phases. It may seem like a simple box to check off before the “real work” begins. But to believe that is to under-estimate its significance in the treatment planning. It is OK to take your time in this phase.
However, that being said, my preparing for the Camino isn’t a substitute for my Camino. It gives me the confidence and competence that when I do embark on this amazing adventure, I can handle it. Likewise, the preparation phase isn’t the journey’s end for our clients. It makes the journey possible. Never under judge the value of this integral phase of EMDR therapy.
- Mary Jo McHaney.