Resourcing Client Gains
with this quick & powerful practice
Our clients come to session with real and important concerns that require our focus and attention. This is the main task of clinical work and the reason people come to therapy — to focus on and fix the problems.
Add to this the fact that somehow, somewhere along our evolutionary path, human beings have become wired to direct the bulk of our time, attention, and energy toward what is wrong, broken, and damaged. While problem solving has helped ensure our survival as a species, it has come, for many of us, at the cost of skimming over (and sometimes ignoring entirely) the good in our lives — the things that are going well. The wins. The gains. The juice!
As an EMDR Therapist, whenever I am checking in with a client at the start of a session, asking how the week went, I am listening for how their symptoms and triggers may have evolved in response to our work. This is the macro level inquiry of Phase 8 of the Standard EMDR Protocol — the re-evaluation phase. In these precious first minutes of a session, when the client is sharing their recent experiences and we are preparing to resume our work, I pay special attention to listen for any positive material being reported — a healthy boundary being set, a new tool or skill being employed, an extended period of peace and calm in an otherwise chaotic week — any win the client has experienced since we last met, and especially when the gain reflects a previously established therapeutic goal.
As the client begins to describe the thing that went well, I let them share a few sentences and wait for the moment when I can see (and feel) that they are accessing the experience — the positive moment is reflected in their facial expression, the tone of their voice, and the brightness in their eyes. Once I know that the memory of the gain is ‘lit up’, I will lean in with a smile and ask, “It is okay if we juice this one? This experience sounds too good to let pass.”
It is at this point that, if in my office, I am passing the client my EMDR tappers. If we are working remotely, I am sharing my screen so they can view the remote bilateral eye movement tool. Either way, I move rather stealthily so as not to lose the energy of the moment. Once the client is quickly set for bilateral, I layer on the following prompts, installing each with a short & slow set of bilateral stimulation (BLS):
- “As you think about __________ (the positive experience), what emotion do you feel in this moment?”
- “Focus on the experience and the feeling of ________ and follow.” (Add BLS)
- “When you focus on __________ (the positive experience) and that feeling of _________ (emotion), where do you feel it in your body?”
- “Focus on the experience and the feeling of _________ (emotion) in your __________ (body location) and follow.” (Add BLS)
- “What is the image that goes with this experience and the feeling of _________ (emotion) in your __________ (body location)?”
- “Focus on _________ (image) and the feeling of _________ (emotion) in your __________ (body location) and follow.” (Add BLS)
- “What are you the positive and true words, about yourself or the experience, that go with __________ (image) and the feeling of _________ (emotion) in your __________ (body location)?”
- “Focus on _________ (image) and the feeling of _________ (emotion) in your __________ (body location) and the word(s) _________ and follow.” (Add BLS)
There are a few bonus items that I almost always add to this exercise. After each set of BLS, and before asking the next prompt, I like to ask, “what do you notice?”. This gives the client an opportunity to share, and helps me know that the experience is remaining positive and hasn’t been polluted by any negative material. If that were to happen, I would suggest trying to put the negative material in the container before continuing.
Another bonus feature that clients seem to appreciate is that I write down the emotion(s), body location(s), image, and word(s) and give it to them in session. In my therapy office, I keep a stack of multicolored index cards near my chair. When working in person, I let the client pick their favorite color and I write the cues on the card for them to take home for further resourcing. If working remotely, I create a pdf to email them after the session. Those are fun because I often add images to the page that represent the work that they’ve done.
Regardless of the personal touches one elects to incorporate, as we resource the client’s gain, we are prompting them to focus on the emotions, somatic sensations, images (either actual or metaphorical), and positive words associated with the experience. In doing so, and especially with the addition of bilateral stimulation, we are installing the resource in a rich and powerful way, allowing multiple aspects of the event to more fully integrate into the client’s sense of self.
When we take these few precious moments to “juice the good stuff”, we are not only fortifying our client, we are strengthening the therapeutic alliance by acknowledging that we recognize the good in them and the good in their lives; and that we value their wins, and strive to integrate their gains into our work through this efficient and effective resourcing exercise.
I hope that this “juicing the good stuff” practice benefits your work and the people you serve. Please do reach out and share your experience; I’d love to hear from you.