RESOURCING IMAGERY FOR EMDR
Kenya Randall Rocha, LMHC Director of Mosaic Family Counseling, and EMDR Consulting Basic Trainer, (www.mosaicfamilyinc.com) , shares this Resourcing process that she routinely uses with her clients. It’s similar to the Healing Circle resources that Shirley Jean Schmidt (www.dnmsinstitute.com) created, along with ideas from Laurel Parnell (www.emdrimfo.com) and her own creativity. Kenya uses this for skill building as well as affect management and increasing the sense of safety. Here’s her procedure:
Ask the client to name a figure that represents the following themes. T his can be a figure of a real person in their lives or an imagined person in their life or simply something that reminds them of this resource word. I will give examples I have received as figures. You are looking for a representation of the resources to use in the guided imagery to create a protective place for them to go and generate strength at home to prepare for EMDR processing (ego strengthening).
It is not recommended for them to use their actual parents or family members exclusively as no parent or family member can be the complete definition of any of these words. You don’t want your resource to be tainted when you need it the most. Simply ask the client for an additional one and you can help them think of one by using the ‘state of being’ as a resource generator, i.e., "Do you remember a time when you really felt loved? What were the circumstances? Then, use something from that memory to identify a nurturing figure.
Nurturing: blanket, nature, grandparents, mothers hand stroking my hair, my bedroom, “aunt Jemima” Mother Nature, Mother Earth, Santa Clause, Divine Mother, various native American figures, Jesus, God, Dog, other animals that are seemingly kind natured, horses, cats
Protection: (different than safety) police officer, swat team, a big shield, a magic bubble, magic wand, batman, spiderman, Thor
Wisdom: Old oak tree, owls, president Lincoln, libraries, books, father time, other Native American figures, grandfathers, parents, aunts uncles
Conflict Free Image: Beach, meadow, mountain, stream, traveling on a train, movie theatre (this is also the setting which we use to create dual attention) I often add to their conflict free image as long as they don’t have any fears about being in nature settings. If they do, I am sure not to use them all. [This is similar to Peaceful Place resource, presented in a broader way so that more clients might access it.]
Healthy Adult Self: “Me holding my degree in my hand, with a husband, children and a great job”, “Having a lot of friends and functioning well”. “finding balance”, “me happy”. This is the [outcome or …] end result that people are looking for, but it can change as you go through the process.
If the client’s health is an issue, I might ask them to name their “picture of health figure” which may just be them not abusing their body any longer. [I] often use this for people [suffering from…] consequence for chemical dependence or abuse. I use these figures in my guided imagery and ego strengthening exercise…
Guided Imagery with Resources
[First]…”Breathe extremely slowly for about 5 breaths … (breathe with them to show them how). … Concentrate on [your] breathing and the muscles [you] are using…Loosen up [your] shoulders and neck, face [and so on] as [you] breathe. …Breathe in and out about 30 seconds without speaking much. …Do not use [your] muscles for exhalation and …let the air ‘whoosh’ out a couple of times. [Now]… breathe regularly… but to pay attention to their breathing while listening to… [the following]:
Use a nurturing voice, pausing at the appropriate times, if you smile while you are talking softly, it will help. This can take up much of your session. You can change it to meet your needs.
“Imagine yourself on a sidewalk, no shoes, with green grass all around you for as far as you can see… the sidewalk is warm and there is a warm breeze that feels nice on your face and in your hair. You feel comfortable and notice the rough cement on the bottom of your feet. Off to the right is a line of trees that the sidewalk winds around to… imagine you walking along this sidewalk toward the line of trees…, you feel nice and content and curious about them. As you get closer you can see there is an opening in the trees, there is a natural arch made by the trees that opens to a corridor. You continue walking toward the corridor feeling warm and peaceful with each step.
As you come closer to the opening you stand and look for a moment, noticing the intricacies around you. There are beautiful flowering trees with a wonderful fragrance of your favorite flowers and colors… you step closer and notice the change in the temperature in the air around you and the cool feel of the earth under your feet. You begin to walk with a lighter step feeling wonderful… it feels safe and you are calm… the sun sprinkles on you through the trees above you… breathing in the smells around you and feeling peaceful… you come to the end of the corridor that opens up to a beautiful meadow with tall green grasses, and wild flowers.
Directly in front of you in the near distance is a huge oak tree with a giant trunk…. To the right you hear the sound of a stream…; curious, you walk toward the sound and see a comfortable bench with a pile of pebbles next to it… You sit for a moment watching the stream as it flows slowly by… feeling comfortable and safe…. You reach down to pick up a pebble and toss it in, seeing the water splash… you can smell the clean water mixed with a hint of lilac from the bushes that are placed on the opposite bank of the stream.
You look up and slightly to the left and see the top of a large hill… walking down river in the grass you can feel the soft cool grass under your feet… the sun is shining on your face and it feels nice… you come to a nice sturdy bridge that crosses the stream, leading to a path up the hill and you follow it… going up feeling the muscles you use in your legs and the breath in your lungs, it does not tire you… it makes you feel free, climbing higher and higher you feel safe and a little excited to get to the top….
You come to a natural stairway on the side, leading around toward an opening to a beautiful waterfall…, the sound is melodic and the view is beautiful… you take it in and enjoy it…, there is a natural ledge that is cut into the side of the hill where you can sit and view as the water falls into the opening small lake of water that is so blue and clear you can see everything in it….
You sit and enjoy the view, you feel safe and warm, comfortable and content….. This is a place you can ask yourself any question and trust the answer you hear to be true….. You may ask yourself a question here if you wish… just accept the answer….. The spirit of [wisdom figure] is here with you lending you all its strength and power…. You know you will walk away a little wiser today from this spot, you know you can come here anytime as it belongs to only you……
You walk back down the hill feeling lighter in your step with a smile on your face, holding on to the wisdom you have gained………….. you reach the bottom of the hill that opens back to the meadow…… you decide to walk over to the huge oak tree…… as you get closer you can see the door that opens into the tree….. You walk over the threshold into this safe place….
The spirit of [the protective figure] is with you very strongly…… the room you walk into is of perfect proportions with all your favorite things…, there are many rooms…; you walk back passing the rooms that are filled with all the comforts of home…, this feels safe and inviting, warm and comforting….. You walk all the way back to the last room at the back of the tree, a room with a door….. You open the door and find a box inside that looks sturdy and strong….
This box is not too huge and not too small, you open the box and find it is empty…, you begin to put all your concerns in this box, anything that bothers you, makes you afraid or sad….. This box is never full…. No matter how much you put in it. You know this is ok and the box will always be here, you know where to find the box and can take one thing out at a time to deal with it as you are ready…. You complete and put all of your concerns in the box and close the lid…
You search your pockets and find the key, you have the only key and the key can never be lost… it is yours and you may use it whenever you want…… you feel lighter and more in control of things today…. You are happier and enjoy looking at every room in your special place….. You walk back through the tree reaching the threshold and walk through to the outside….
The door closes and as you turn away from the tree, the door disappears…, keeping it your secret place, the door reappears when you need it to….. there is a garden full of your favorite flowers and plants… you go visit this garden familiarizing yourself with this place…, you feel loved and warm with the spirit of [nurturing figure] here with you,… warming your heart and feeling complete acceptance from this place and the spirits of your resource team around you…. You will carry this with you always, knowing that they truly belong to you…You feel so good and happy, peaceful, secure and confident today…..
You will be able to access these feelings and the knowledge that you are good when you need them….. Breathing deeply you begin to walk back toward the corridor that leads to the sidewalk…, taking your time passing the trees and feeling the cool temperatures and earth below your feet………. Reaching the sidewalk and noticing the increase in the warmth on your skin with the sun, the smells of the grass as you walk back toward where you began…You feel lighter, safe and protected,… wise and trustworthy,… content, peaceful,… secure and confident, loved and cared for…… happy……owning these feelings and taking them with you today and all week….Take a few more deep breaths and come back to the room as you are ready.”
[Remain] silent until they are ready to open their eyes and continue. Ask the client to name this place and use this in future, [and develop]… a shortened version of this for practice in future sessions. This one takes about 20-30 minutes and is meant for skill building.
Application and Installation
I encourage them to use this daily and ask them to be creative with the colors and specific items that are there for them to make it their own. They are allowed to spend as little time there as long as they do the breathing and one of the components. This helps them maintain their focus until they gain enough practice they can do it for longer. I often change the lineup of the introduction of the resource figures, depending on what the outstanding issue is for the client and how safe or capable of following they are in the session, always putting the spirits or essence of the representation of the [resources] concept… so the space doesn’t get tainted with the actual persons flaws. I find this makes it more believable for the client to access that part of the resource. Tap in the resources in the preparation phase.
After they have been able to utilize this for a few weeks, I ask them to ‘tap in’ [the name of their place] as a skill, reducing anxiety, letting an answer come to themselves, when they have to confront an issue [or problem solve]. [This is a way they can access] their authentic selves, [that] place where everything is good inside them, to listen to their intuition and trust themselves, when they are in need.”
Thanks Kenya for this elegant imaginal resourcing process. I assume that slow, short BLS could be used to install or strengthen their resources within sessions as well. This resourcing meditation can be read to clients and recorded on their smart phones or another device for use outside the therapy setting. It’s become a favorite preparation resource for many!
Kenya is available for EMDR consultation and provides the EMDR specialty training Deeper Connections: EMDR with Couples and Families, for EMDR & Beyond, which has been extremely well received. Kenya combines EMDR Therapy with Emotionally Focused Therapy (Sue Johnson), which integrates very well with EMDR therapy.
Contact me if you are interested in hosting this training. We are offering this one day specialty workshop in Des Moines and through live streaming as well as onsite by request. Plans are being made for developing this excellent presentation into an online course in future.
See EMDR & Beyond’s training page and Iowa's Consulting Approved Consultant page or go to her website www.mosaicfamilyinc.com for more information.
Bonnie Mikelson LISW
Director, EMDR & Beyond