Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a well-researched treatment for PTSD, mood and anxiety issues. EMDR therapists follow an 8-phase approach to facilitate healing from disturbing memories, thoughts, images, and bodily sensations. The initial phases of therapy focus on identifying traumatic events and what will be targeted for processing. Resource development and installation is another important part of the initial EMDR phases to facilitate stabilization.
Resourcing refers to identifying and instilling coping skills to help you deal with difficult reactions that you may experience. During and outside of your EMDR sessions, you can utilize resourcing to keep you calm and in the present moment. Resourcing is a personal preference. Your EMDR therapist will help you develop resources that best work for you. For individuals who have experienced complex trauma and dissociative symptoms, resourcing with your trauma therapist may take many sessions. Completion of this phase ensures that you are emotionally stable to share traumatic events.
What Are the Most Common Resources Used in EMDR?
- Butterfly Hug: With this resource, you cross your arms over your chest, so that the tip of the middle finger from each hand is placed below the clavicle or the collarbone and the other fingers and hands cover the area that is located under the connection between the collarbone and the shoulder and the collarbone and sternum or breastbone. Hands and fingers must be as vertical as possible so that the fingers point toward the neck and not toward the arms. If you desire, you can interlock your thumbs to form the butterfly’s body and the extension of your other fingers’ outward will form the Butterfly’s wings. Your eyes can be closed, or partially closed, looking toward the tip of your nose. Next, alternate the movement of your hands, like the flapping wings of a butterfly. Let your hands move freely. You can breathe slowly and deeply (abdominal breathing), while you observe what is going through your mind and body such as thoughts, images, sounds, odors, feelings, and physical sensations without changing, pushing your thoughts away, or judging. You can pretend as though what you are observing is like clouds passing by. Stop when you feel in your body that it has been enough and lower your hands to your thighs.
- Safe/Calm/Healing Place: This resource asks you to close your eyes and use your imagination to go to a place where you feel safe or calm. Think about what images, colors, sounds, and so forth you imagine in your safe place. Perhaps being on the beach or sitting on a mountain stream. A place you find most relaxing in the world. While you concentrate on the pleasant sensations in your body, your therapist will use bi-lateral stimulation (BLS), such as eye movements or tapping, to strengthen the association of a positive experience with your place. You can also use the Butterfly Hug while you concentrate on your safe or calm place. To easily bring up this resource, identify a cue word to associate with this place. Think of that word and notice the positive feelings you have. Then, your therapist will engage in additional BLS. To test that this resource is helpful to you, think about a slightly disturbing event, something very minor. Then you will bring up your safe/calm place and notice any shifts in your body, followed by additional BLS.
- Container: This resource asks you to imagine a container, such as a lockbox, plastic container, bottomless container, or balloon, to store upsetting thoughts, feelings, and images. The container should be strong and big enough to hold whatever you wish to put into it. Your container needs to have a way to add and remove memories, thoughts, and images, as well as regulate how much comes out at any one time. You will decide where to place this container in your mind. You may want to keep it at a distance from you. Once you’ve created your container, your therapist will use bi-lateral stimulation (BLS), such as eye movements or tapping, to strengthen this association in your mind. You can also use the Butterfly Hug while you concentrate on your container. Then you will want to give your container a name and the positive feelings you have when using it. To test that this resource is helpful to you, close your eyes and think about a slightly disturbing experience. Next, you will bring up your container and notice any shifts in your body. Then, picture putting this annoyance and any feelings it evokes into your container. Once the images are in the container, you can open your eyes
- Nurturing Figure(s): The supportive figure resource involves imagining nurturing figures in your life. You can use someone who you know or an imaginary figure who epitomizes a nurturing quality. Think about how these figures nurture and support you. Identify how they act towards you and what characteristics make them so nurturing. Try to connect with their kindness and lovingness. See if you can identify with the part of yourself that is also nurturing. Examine your own inner strength that could help you overcome any discomfort you may feel. Once you have these figures in your mind, your EMDR therapist will conduct BLS.
- Protective Figure: The protective figure resource refers to a protective figure who can protect you during times of distress. You can use someone who you know or an imaginary figure who epitomizes this protective characteristic. It can be an animal, spiritual figure, friend, family member, or someone from your childhood. Think about how this figure protected you and keeps you safe. Ponder how they act towards you and what characteristics make them protective of you. Once you have this figure identified, your EMDR therapist will conduct BLS to strengthen the association.
- Coherent Breathing: The heart and brain are intimately connected, impacting our emotional state. When we are in distress, our breathing usually becomes erratic and fast. This can impede our brain to function properly. However, when we engage in coherent breathing, our heart rhythm stabilizes and the brain can operate more efficiently. Coherent breathing activates your parasympathetic system, which is part of the automatic nervous system involved in calming and returning the body to a rest state. When you inhale and exhale, engage your diaphragm, rather than breathing from the chest and shoulders. Think about your diaphragm as a balloon that you can expand upon inhale and decompress upon exhale. The ideal breath rate is about 6 breath cycles per minute, which equates to a 5 second inhale and 5 second exhale. At this breath cycle, your heart and brain are more balanced and calm.
- Mindfulness Exercises: Mindfulness is a state of mind that facilitates an awareness of your present state without any internal judgment. When we are being mindful, we can understand our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors as observers, and we become less reactive to them. Mindfulness allows us to make space for distressing internal events so that we can react in a more, calm and reflective manner.
- Parts Work: Parts therapy a powerful way to develop a new perspective on the varying emotions, sensations, and thoughts you experience. Connecting to your child self can be a helpful resource to foster insight, curiosity, self-compassion and to facilitate mindfulness. One way to do this is to find a photograph of yourself as a child. Imagine that you can communicate with your younger self and provider him/her encouragement, love, and knowledge that your adult self can offer, which you didn’t have access to as a child. Think about how your child-self would respond. To make this more realistic, you can hold a pen in your non-dominant hand and scribble while you listen for the child’s imagined response. Parts work with a trauma therapist can be very therapeutic in your journey to overcome your past and present.
When Do I Use My EMDR Resource?
You can use your resource anytime you experience disturbing emotions, thoughts, images and/or physical sensations. Your resource is your go-to coping skill during your EMDR session or in-between sessions. You may find that some resources work more effectively than others. Or, none of them may work all the time. That’s fine. At times, you may have to stay in your experience and let it pass over you. Your EMDR therapist may provide you with a resource tracking log so that you can discuss and improve your resources over time.
Interested in Starting EMDR Therapy?
Dr. Mazzei has helped many people overcome their traumatic pasts as well as depression, anxiety, and addiction using EMDR therapy. She offers online EMDR treatment and in-person sessions. If you are interested in learning more or would like to get started, you can schedule an initial consultation with her. You may also contact our office at (480) 448-6755.