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The rain was beginning to really pour, and I eagerly stepped into the deluge. I was testing my rain gear, assessing my capacity to stay dry during hours of walking in the rain…

I am preparing for my two-month, 500 mile walk on the Camino de Santiago in Spain.  It is journey of self-exploration and personal growth.  I will definitely encounter all sorts of weather. So, preparation is critically important. I also need to know how it feels to carry 15 pounds of weight all day, every day. I need to know what shoes fit best, and how to navigate unknown terrain. All of this is preparation for my successful Camino.

In many ways this is exactly what therapists are working towards during Phase 2 – the Preparation Phase of EMDR therapy. We are preparing our clients for their own Camino… their own journey of self-discovery. And before beginning that journey, the client must be ready to handle any conditions and obstacles that may arise. Through preparation phase the client learns that they have what they need to do hard things. They learn how to access a calm state if things get too rough. They learn what they need and how to create a resource for that. They learn to trust themselves enough to venture forward on the path.

As with my Camino planning, Phase 2 must be individualized. Through AIP-informed history taking, exploration of existing internal and external resources, and collaborative conversation, the clinician determines what the client needs prior to reprocessing and adjusts the preparation phase accordingly.  Not everyone on the Camino wears the same shoes or carries the same backpack. The same is true with EMDR Therapy clients. One client might need to create a felt sense of safety before beginning their journey. Another might require greater emotional regulation skills.

The importance of Phase 2 cannot be over-emphasized. It will make or break success during EMDR’s reprocessing phases. It may seem like a simple box to check off before the “real work” of therapy begins. But to believe that is to underestimate its significance in treatment planning. It is OK to take your time in this phase.

That being said, we can all agree that my preparing for the Camino isn’t a substitute for actually walking the Camino. Careful planning and preparation give me the confidence and competence to know that when I do embark on this amazing adventure, I can handle it. I can adapt to the changing landscape and, ultimately, reach my destination.

Likewise, the preparation phase of EMDR isn’t the journey’s end for our clients. It makes the journey possible. Never undervalue this integral phase of EMDR therapy.

Buen Camino! — Mary Jo McHaney