Ep 40: Imagination or dissociation? Assumptions in Phase 4

When we hear the word imagination, a variety of things may come to mind. Maybe it’s two kids playing a pretend game or maybe it's a fantasy television show or maybe it’s even a comic book with some creative characters.

What we don’t typically think about is EMDR therapy. In fact, when we think about imagination and EMDR, our training might even tell us that what we’re looking at is dissociation.

That's why today, I want to open up a conversation about the relationship that we, as clinicians, have with imagination.

We know that, for children, imagination holds the key to so much of what we know to be human development. Imagination is what kids use to play, and to learn, and to try on different identities and cognitions. It’s a powerful tool that so many children use to process their day to day life.

So, y’all, when our adult clients are reprocessing childhood trauma and a cartoon character or some other imaginative figure comes in, I want you to pause before you write this off as dissociation. Take a moment to recognize that you may actually be exactly where you need to be: in their childhood neural networks and narratives. Then take a moment to recognize that your client may be doing exactly what they need to be doing in Phase 4: connecting those childhood narratives to the present, adult narratives.

We put so much pressure on ourselves to identify when our clients are dissociating in Phase 4 that we’re quick to react with the assumption that we need to bring them back to target or back to the present. But what if, instead, we were to take some time to let imagination do the job it was meant to do?

I imagine we’d be offering a resource to our clients that we didn’t even know they had.

Listen to this podcast episode to learn more about imagination and EMDR therapy.


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With a Masters in Education from Vanderbilt, Kambria has been creating trainings and teaching adult learners for 20 years. As Director of Education and Quality Improvement at Stanford Medical School, her job was to decomplicate and consolidate complex systems and topics, thereby giving medical trainees successful learning experiences. Now, as a busy mom of fraternal twins, dedicated business owner of Zero Disturbance, and EMDRIA Approved Consultant, Kambria knows what it means to do things efficiently, effectively, and in a learner-centered way.