Julie Levin (MFT, CHT) specializes in relief from anxiety and related behaviors in both individuals and couples. Recently, I asked her what she thought made survivors resilient. Her answer:
"One of the things I'm becoming aware of as I use EMDR more is the importance of a 'resource' person ... or a person who believes in the survivor and ideally loves or cares about him/her. I think this is a big factor in resiliency."
I found this idea interesting and asked Julie to elaborate. While her answer below applies to EMDR, the theory of a resource person can be applied and employed in any kind of therapy.
Sometimes clients get stuck when doing EMDR. They get into a loop or go blank, and the technique of recalibrating - going back to the old belief and getting a measurement, then re-starting the EMDR process - doesn't seem to be working. When I studied EMDR with Philip Manfield, he introduced us to the concept of a "Resource Person", the mental image of someone who knows and cares about the client, who can imaginatively step into the process and offer guidance or support.
The client is asked to think of someone who is safe, respectful, nurturing and loving. Often a grandparent or teacher will come to mind. Clients are discouraged from using immediate family members because often there is some ambivalence. When clients can't think of a real person, I broaden the question to include anyone, a celebrity, an historical figure, or a spiritual figure who would know their new belief was 100% true if they ever met. Most clients can come up with someone. Some clients will come up with several people and I incorporate them as one resource, like a cheering squad.
Philip recommends "installing" the resource with two or three short (10-12 reps), faster rounds of EMDR while the client holds an image of the resource person in their mind. I've found that I can even ask a stuck client to think of someone and just invite the resource into their processing right in the middle of things. So a client is stuck and says, "I can't get past this belief" or "I keep going blank" and I say, "Who do you know that knows your true self and still loves you?" They come up with someone, and I say, "Good, bring that person with you into the stuck place." This is usually enough to get the therapeutic process going again.
Clients know exactly what they need. The image of the resource person allows them to access and accept guidance, encouragement, support - or whatever is needed at that point. People usually have a strong mental image of this person who knows something about their value, strength, resilience, or even a more accurate perspective on the trauma than they have. And this resource helps them get past blocks or resistance.
I've become more creative with the resource person, incorporating it at the end of an EMDR session, when the client is locking in the new belief. "Hear your resource person telling you ______" (insert new belief here). I have clients tell me that their resource person becomes an active part of their inner dialogue long after an EMDR session. Juicy stuff.
I love the idea of a resource person. It's sort of a way to allow our own inner voice to have a say even when we don't trust it. By giving the voice to someone we do trust our own instincts can develop strength.
So, what do you think? Do you have a resource person? Would you try this tactic? Do you feel it would be useful? Leave a comment with your thoughts.
'Professional Perspective' is a weekly feature highlighting a therapist or other healing oriented practitioner's view of some positive aspect in the healing process. If you'd like to contribute, please email me with ideas, topics, and suggestions: parasitesof.themind @ yahoo.com.
(Photo: Julie Levin)