It’s Not in the Manual
The Key to Transformation Is in You
Manuals are just that—manuals. They’re filled with rules, steps and protocols to follow and they are perfect for people who like to be told what to do. Anyone who’s trained with me has seen me pick up the EMDR manual and say—Here are the rules. Now I want to talk to you about how to show up around them.
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.
Working the Edge
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. You’re asking yourself “What’s appropriate for this client at this moment?” “How much would be too much?” A few examples:
- 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 didn’t just lose something that was good when bad things happened. They never had “the good” in the first place. So when that client comes to therapy, they don’t know what’s possible. They just want to not feel so bad. Showing up and working the edge 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.
What Do You Think about Working the Edge?
Please take a minute to let me and your colleagues know about a recent example in your own clinical work. Ask your questions. Tell your story. We all benefit when we share our examples of showing up. Tell your story. We all benefit when we share our thoughts and comments.