Confessions Of A Light Bar Novice

This past fall season I made a major investment for my counseling practice. After nearly a decade of practicing EMDR therapy I purchased a light bar for my office. For those of you that are unfamiliar, a light bar is a tool you can set up in your office: a literal metal or plastic bar positioned on top of a tripod with LED lights that “sweep” back and forth, eliciting in your client the bilateral eye movements you once provided by waving your hand back and forth.

My practice was full of clients and about 75% of them were engaging in some phase of EMDR. That’s a lot of eye movements. What’s more, I was practicing new EMDR therapy protocols that required longer sets of BLS (up to 50 passes!). My neck was stiff, my shoulder sore and my elbow had started making a discomforting ‘click’ with each extension of my arm. It was time to get a light bar and give my arm a rest.

I admit, I went all in. I purchased a wireless light bar with additional wireless “tappers” and wireless headphones that I could control from an app on my phone. Talk about tech! I could also adjust that size, brightness and color of the LED light, speed and movement (e.g. options for blinking or sweeping lights left and right) and more. I experimented in my office, finding what I liked and then walked my clients through finding their unique combination of settings.

I’ve learned a lot in my few short months with the light bar and I want to offer you my insight and advice on how to make a smooth transition. These are the fears I faced in transitioning to a light bar. I hope you can learn from my transition and get clarity for yourself on if this is the right investment for you.

  1. The cost freaked me out. To be honest, I waited far too long to get a light bar. I’m a thrifty gal and the idea of dropping approximately $500 on this techy tool was a big stretch for me. But the truth is that I made up for the cost after a month of sessions. This investment was hardly going to break my bank and it’s saving me wear and tear on my body over the next couple of years or longer. I also had to look at the numbers. With most of my practice being based in EMDR I knew this tool would get a lot of use so long as I could emotionally embrace this new ‘partner’ in my office.
  2. I worried my client’s wouldn’t like it. Even the world’s best EMDR therapy practitioner will tell you that the therapeutic relationship is still an essential part of treatment. I worried my clients wouldn’t like the bar. I feared they would feel detached and removed from me: both the physical closeness that we experienced when I was sitting just feet away and the emotional intimacy of being ‘in it together’. But they didn’t! Not one complained. Not one has objected. I remembered that my clients trust me and see me as the expert. If I had confidence in the bar, they would too.And the truth is, if someone preferred my self-administered BLS I would happily provide it for them.
  3. The light bar distanced me from my client’s process, kind of. This has been my biggest struggle transitioning to the light bar. When I was waving my hand around I felt actively involved in the process. EMDR therapy protocol already encourages the clinician to “stay out of the way.” The hand movements allowed me to stay close (physically and energetically) in the process. Once I was off in my chair, operating the app from my phone I didn’t know what to do! Where do I look? How do I pass time while my client is doing their thing with the light bar? I had to get creative. Read on…
  4. I hit a creative wall. It hurt that I felt distanced from my client’s process. But as time goes on I feel myself (with the help of my own advanced training and consultation) owning the direction of therapy, being creative in my application of protocols and finding ways to remain present. For example, I’m mindful of what protocol(s) benefits my client best: standard, ASSYST, PRECI-OTS… The options are nearly endless and the more you continue your training and consultation the more you’ll feel empowered in creating meaningful treatment and healing for your clients.

Also, the light bar allowed me additional creativity and flexibility. Based on my clients needs sometimes I shift from the lightbar to hand movements, from tapping to the light bar, etc. It feels good to have options for BLS and the reality is, I’m not married to the bar / tappers / headphones.

Finally, I’ve found ways to be increasingly mindful of my clients. While they are studying the light bar I gaze in their direction and I envision a ‘bubble of protection” and a loving light surrounding them. I notice my breathing and regulate my own body, sometimes matching my breathing to theirs to get a feel for their arousal and pace. I allow myself to soften and notice energetic shifts (e.g. that moment when you think their eyes look different… only for them to begin tearing or crying a minute later) and offer them opportunities to connect to this felt-sense of the work. The options are as endless and unique as you are gifted and attuned to their experience.

If you’d like more information on purchasing a light bar for your EMDR therapy practice then you have a few options. I purchased my device from https://www.emdrkit.com and was very happy with their customer service and options. If you’d like to know more about my experience then please leave a comment below or reach out to me at [email protected] I can’t wait to see you making fresh moves in your practice.

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