Supporting Integration During and After EP SessionsJan 16, 2024
I've been offering 1:1 sessions in this kind of work for about 5 years. I'm continually learning and refining my skills. It's become more and more important and interesting to me, to support integration for the clients' experience. Here's what I am noticing. I invite others to comment on your experiences with integration too:
FIRST: WHAT DO WE MEAN BY ‘INTEGRATION’ AS PART OF THE HEALING AND TRANSFORMATION PROCESS?
In our EP training and practice we often hear and use the word “integration”. In sessions we do resourcing, go into the session process, work with the patterns of nervous system activation, the emotions, the origins of core beliefs – we follow the innate process of healing that emerges and takes place.
Integration happens as a result of this embodied process and enquiry. In session we stir things up, uncouple and stuck patterns; old looping survival energies are completed. New perspectives sometimes emerge as old unconscious beliefs are investigated and dissolve. Access to peace, joy and energy often emerge as old painful stuck emotions are expressed, or get metabolized. Integration then, refers to a new, reorganization within the nervous system as it returns to homeostasis and new neural pathways begin to form.
INTEGRATION encompasses how all the different aspects of our being, our systems, reorganize, form a new relationship with each other and anchor. The integration process itself is not something we ‘do’. It’s not something we have a technique for. It’s not something we 'will' or make happen. But we can set up the conditions that support it to naturally happen and this also strengthens the new organization. What this means is we are less reactive to life’s stresses and challenges. We have more capacity to respond from a place of choice rather than painful survival patterns.
INTEGRATION HAPPENS WITHIN A CONTEXT OF PRESENCE, ALLOWING AND SAVORING.
In EP sessions, as facilitator, I watch for moments during the session when there is a shift in the client's energy, they light up with a new insight after an old belief drops or they’ve completed a nervous system activation or felt and expressed some difficult emotions and a wave of peace or neutrality emerges. These are prime points where I invite the client to just pause for a few moments to rest there, breathe into it, stay embodied and be aware, just BE…..instead of quickly moving on to something else. (it doesn’t have to be a long time, just a few moments is often enough).
A couple ways I say this to the client:
“Let’s just be with that for a few moments, Is that OK?”
“Let’s breathe into that and let your system anchor it.”
Moving on too quickly can short change this valuable aspect of healing. (we often unconsciously fall into the rushing-on-to-the-next-thing, and the 'do-do-do' mode that is predominant in our culture).
AT THE END OF EP SESSIONS:
Allow a little time, at the end of sessions, for integration, similar as described above. If the client had a break through, a new insight, a new option emerged to an old stuck pattern etc…I will bring this back up at the end of the session and reflect it back to them - in their words if possible - and then suggest we pause with it (for integration). *
Sometimes I ask if there is a new action or behavior they discovered in the session, that they might want to practice in the coming days. (neuroscience tells us that 'rewiring' - creating new neural pathways - requires repetition). This can also be part of the integration process. It is also empowering the client to take the work into their everyday life.
I want to emphasize that I steer clear of imposing MY insights or ideas and focus on THEIR insights. Even if my ideas might be really good, I feel it is important to follow what emerges for the client. This is their timing and what – in their complex majestic inner world - is ready to emerge and be lived.
*Even when no new insight or shift occurred in the session, I believe it is hugely valuable to acknowledge the client’s intention and willingness to be in the process, to show up, to expose their inner process, to be present with what is, and to face these things we reflexively avoid - to do this is, in itself, a new behavior and healthy way of being that deserves savoring and resting with.
AFTER THE SESSION:
In addition, I invite clients to take some time after the session, not to suddenly rush to the next activity if possible. Some people just rest, go for a walk, do some gentle journaling or art etc.
Key elements that support integration are:
Understanding. As we (practitioner and client) understand the value of integration and how it’s a non-doing, we are empowered to allow for it. Because it is more of a ‘beingness” we are apt to not recognize its importance and value.
Awareness of the shifts, insights and new perspective that emerge during the session. - Key moments for allowing integration.
Timing for when allowing moments and space for integration is optimal.
Slowing down - Being, and 'allowing' integration usually require us to slow down.
Pause and breathe into it…. with the understanding that integration is happening, giving it space while keeping awareness in the present, perhaps with savoring and gratitude…. positive emotions link to the new experience (nervous system and insights), strengthen it and anchor it for reliably creating new neural pathways.
Emdodied Processing Practitioner