Wrap Up/Learn More

Things you can do to learn more.

  • Download the script and read it carefully.  A surprising number of people get stuck because they do not understand how to do this version of Flash because they have not interacted with the actual script/treatment guide.  It is short, probably the shortest “book” about an approach to therapy that exists (< 20 pages).
  • Watch the recent Flash demos (available on front page of Four Blinks website).
  • If you can, join an upcoming Flash training event. Schedule under Schedule a Consultation at EMDRTom.com.
  • Join the Flash Sandbox group on Facebook.

Step Seven (Optional): Flash Future Template

The Flash future template allows you to easily leverage the work you just did when the memory resolved toward a future scene.

Examples where a Flash future template may be helpful:

  • Relationship (of any type) conflict that the client just resolved is likely to continue. Target a future incident of this person doing or saying something that is triggering and similar to the memory you just resolved.
  • Auto accident that you just worked on.  Target a future scene where the client is driving by the accident site sometime soon with the goal of not feeling panic.
  • Sexual assault memory that the client just resolved involves a particularly triggering aspect that affects the client’s current intimate relationship AND the client would like to desensitize that trigger further.  Target a future scene where the client is engaging in consensual sexual activity in which that trigger occurs.
  • Thanksgiving with family is highly triggering for many people.  Christmas happens 30 days later.  Same people, same racist uncle, different foods.  After resolving the memory of Thanksgiving, target the scene of Christmas.

In general, Flash future templates work better when past work has been resolved and you simply change the orientation to the future prong.  Again, the future scene should not be catastrophic (i.e. “now imagine your other child dies…,” etc).

Script: Since we have time, would you like to leverage the work that you just completed toward a potential future scene?  The future scene should be one that is likely to happen in the next few weeks and it shouldn’t be catastrophic.  Can you think of something that is related to the memory that you just completed that might happen in the next few weeks that would be helpful to try to calm down before it happens?

Engage in the following loop between A and B until the client can play the future scene and there is no distress on any channel:

A: Microactivate the Future Scenario

“Think very quickly about that future scene and see whatever is distressing about it in this millisecond go into your container.  Push your container out of your awareness.  Let me know when it is gone.”  When client indicates it is gone, go to the right column for more calm scene with blinks and continue looping between left and right columns until there is no distress in the future scene.

B: Do Calm Scene with Blinks

“Load up your calm scene and let me know when you are there…” When the client indicates they are there, say the word “blink” every five seconds for a duration of 30 seconds (exactly the same as you did in Step Four when working on the memory).  After 30 seconds in the calm scene with blinks, ask the client: “Were you able to stay in the calm scene?”  If activation intruded on the calm scene, container that activation and return to the calm scene with blinks, before returning to check the part of the memory that last intruded.

Wrap Up

End by playing the video of the future scene, containering any distress that appears, and doing rounds in the calm scene with blinks until the client can play the future scene with no distress.

Step Six: Walk Through the Video of the Memory and Clear Out any Residue

After the client cannot identify any distress in the memory in Step Five, say something like one of the following:

  • “Now just flip through each frame of the memory one at a time looking for any left-over pieces of distress, even if it’s a tiny bit.  Let me know when you find the first piece of distress.”
  • “Now that you can’t find distress from looking outside in, let’s walk through the memory slowly like it’s a video you are playing from the beginning.  Let me know let me know the instant you find any distress, even if it’s a tiny bit.”

If there is any distress: “See whatever is distressing in this millisecond go into your container, see the container close, and push the container far out of your awareness.  Let me know when it is gone.” 

 When the client indicates that the memory is containered, quickly return to Step Four and do another round of calm scene with blinks.  Then, return to Step Six and ask: “Is there any heat remaining in that part of the memory that just had distress a moment ago?”  If there is any residual distress, return to Step Four for a round of calm scene with blinks.  Keep checking for distress in just that piece of the memory and send the client back to Step Four until there is no distress in that piece of the memory.

When there is no distress in that part of the memory, instruct the client to: “Play the memory forward and let me know as soon as you find the next link of distress.”  When the next piece of distress is found, keep doing loops between Step Four (the calm scene with blinks) and checking the distress of just this piece until the distress is gone in that piece.  Keep playing the memory forward until the client can play the full memory with no distress on any channel.

Sometimes the distress that comes at this stage may be in the form of thoughts, for example, “It’s just upsetting that it happenened.”  Put that thought in the container and it is likely to decrease in distress after a round or two of blinks in the calm scene.  Sometimes clients need to visualize thoughts being written into a piece of paper and see that paper go into the container in order make the thoughts concrete enough to container.

If the client is able to play all parts of the memory and there is no distress on any channel, then the memory is resolved.  Check-in with the memory next session to verify that all parts of the memory remain resolved.

Note: Do not be surprised if clients find pieces of the video of the memory in Step Six that still feel very distressing.  This is common.  They are likely to be metabolized quickly after several rounds in the calm scene with blinks.

Step Five: Quickly Glance at the Memory and Contain the Microslice of Distress

Important Links:

The goal in this step is to microactivate a tiny, tiny, piece of the memory content.   We decrease activation by decreasing the amount of time that the client is exposed to the bad memory. Activating the memory too much may cause the following, all of which are problems that must be addressed and resolved immediately in this version of Flash:

  • A part of the video of the memory plays (we want a single frame only from the bad memory… not video content).
  • Body activation to appear (if body activation appears, see the Shop Vac resource in this guide or in the resource videos on EMDRThirdWeekend.com).  Too much body activation may cause memories other than the one we are targeting to come into awareness.
  • A flashback occurs (teach all clients the sensory grounding resource in this guide or use your own sensory grounding exercises).
  • Problems containering are usually problems of overactivation.

In order to lightly activate the memory and container it, say something like one of the following:

  • “Very quickly, open the door on the bad memory and immediately close it.  Whatever you notice in this millisecond, catch it, container it, and push it out of your awareness.  Let me know when it is gone.”
  •  “Check the memory for one millisecond and the instant that you find something, immediately container it and push the container out of your awareness.  Let me know when it is gone.”

When the client indicates that the next micoslice of the the distressing memory is containered and sent out of awareness, quickly go back to Step Four and cycle between Steps Four and Five until the client can glance at the memory and can’t identify any distress.

If the client cannot find any distress when glancing at the memory, go to Step Six.

Important Safety Considerations:

  • Therapists should be comfortable using sensory grounding for clients who have flashbacks or other intrusive symptoms when glancing at the memory.  It is essential that all Flash clients be taught sensory grounding exercises prior to engaging in direct trauma work.  See the sensory ground resource available in this packet.
  • Carefully review the Troubleshooting and FAQ sections before working with clients in this version of Flash.

Troubleshooting Tips Related to Step Five

  • Do not check the SUDs in this version of Flash.  Checking the SUDs (assessment of distress on 0-10 scale) is an activation strategy to assess for how much distress remains in the memory.  Do not do it. You are likely to cause unnecessary activation of parts of the memory that the client has not yet brought into awareness (remember we are working only one microslice at a time).  If you would like to know the SUDs for the client’s note, ask after the memory has been fully reprocessed (the client will remember how “hot” that memory was, but now it is safe to check it).  For this version of Flash to work, there is no reason why you need to know the SUDs.  You simply need to know whether or not the client can find a microslice of distress remaining in the memory and container it.  There is no need to ever know how much distress remains in that memory.  Don’t overactivate it and whatever remains is likely to clear if you keep reprocessing.
  • Let the client know that the memory content that they are handling is like a hot potato.  Touch it only as long as needed to very quickly toss it into the container.  Slowing down containment can cause distress to seep into awareness and the body.
  • Enter an agreement with the client not to overly activate the memory.  It’s like Catholic teen dating.  We have an agreement not to “fully go-there go-there, but just ish or kinda.”  Parts of the system typically like this agreement not to overly activate the memory and to work only a tiny microslice at a time.
  • Be aware of your pacing.  Metaphorically, the loops that occur between Phases Four and Five act as a kind of pump for tiny pieces of distress and traumatic memory content at a time.  Keep the pump going and keep it going quickly.  Practice the loop between Steps Four and Five so that you can quickly move the client from one to the other without pauses between your instructions.  Too much empty time can cause connections to form with other memory content or distress may start to seep and both of these are problems in Flash.
  • Clearly instruct clients that we are working on one memory at a time.  Allowing many memories to connect is a recipe for disaster. The free association of EMDR is not permitted here, nor is noticing distress (any distress needs to be immediately containered regardless of where or why it appears). You can instruct the client not to allow other memories into awareness and to let you know if other memories are trying to intrude and you can help the client container the assorted memories. Adjacent memories coming into awareness is also an indicator of overactivation and body distress, check for body distress and container or vacuum it out immediately. Body activation may act like a “magnet” for memories of similar times the body felt that way.
  • Keeping the memory out of direct attention/awareness is critical.  Briefly bringing microslices of the memory into awareness, containering it, pushing it out of direct attention, and loading up a calm scene that we interrupt with blinks are the central elements in this process.  It is important that the calm scene and the memory not interact with each other.  It is important that the container be pushed far enough away (and the client feels that the memory is far enough away that it won’t intrude into the scene).  If the memory keeps intruding into the calm scene, strengthen the container and push it farther away.  Changing the calming scene to something even more compelling can also help.  If the client is struggling to visualize their own calm place, you can play a beach scene from YouTube or another video that the client finds relaxing.  Many clients with trauma struggle to visualize in compelling ways.  Outsourcing the visualization part to simply actively watching a video will often result in much faster reprocessing.  Problems with containering are often problems of overactivation.
  • If the client activates too much and is having a flashback of the memory, immediately use sensory grounding. See the sensory grounding script in this guide.  It will walk you through how to handle a flashback and how to resume reprocessing after a flashback

FAQ Related to Step Five:

  • If we do not check the SUDSs, how will I know when the client can’t find distress and we should move to Step Six?  Remember that in each step of the process we are giving the client very clear instructions about what to do.  In Step Five, we are asking them to check the memory, catch the distress, and container it.  If the client can’t find what is distressing in the memory they are likely to tell us, since they cannot do the task we are asking them to do.  Also, you can simply say once (not repeatedly) in Step Five, “Simply let me know when you check the memory and you cannot find distress in the memory.”
  • What is meant by “process the traumatic memory as information, rather than as distress?” Since we are able to route most of the distress away from awareness and away from the body, many clients are able to process the distress of the traumatic memory with nearly the ease of catching and tossing aside a ball.  A lot of the distress that comes from trauma work comes from our parts reacting to too much traumatic information coming into awareness too quickly.  For more see the “Walking the Prisoner Out Metaphor” on the EMDR Third Weekend site.

Step Four: Load Up the Calm Scene and Blink Every Five Seconds

This is the step where we will spend most of our time and where all of the reprocessing of the micro-slices of the memory occurs.  Most of the Four Blinks Version of Flash is spent in a loop between Steps Four and Five.  This is the only step where blinks are included.

When you arrive at Step Four for the first time in a session, instruct the client on how to do the blinks: Bring up the positive scene and let me know when you are there.  I will say blink every five seconds and when I do, you just blink your eyes several times quickly.  After blinking, go right back into the calm scene.  We will do this for about 30 seconds at a time.  [Give the client a moment to load the positive scene].

After the first time you are in Step Four, say one of the following (do not repeat the instructions above, since the client knows what to do when you say “blink”):

  • “Return to your calm scene, let me know when you are there.”
  • “Load up your calm scene and just notice the details of it.  Nod or indicate when you are there.”

While the client is in the calm scene, the therapist says “blink” every five seconds for a total of five times (about 30 seconds for the whole set).  Verify that the client is blinking several times rapidly.  If the client blinks more than several times quickly or blinks slowly, it will consume time unnecessarily from the next five second exposure to the calm scene.   Most clients simply blink twice rapidly.  It is not essential that the blinks occur at exactly five seconds (sometimes four seconds, sometimes seven seconds are just fine… nothing magical happens at five seconds).

When you have said “blink” a total of five times at about five seconds apart, ask the client:  “Good.  We you able to keep finding your way back into positive scene?”

If the client struggled to stay in the scene because of distractions, normalize that.  It is not necessary to be in the calm scene 100% of the time when distractions come.  If the client is struggling to return to the calm scene after the blinks, consider switching to a more compelling scene or to a compelling video that the client can watch.  Also, it will take multiple rounds of practice to quickly load up and go in and out of the calm scene.

If part of the trauma memory intrudes on the calm scene, that is called an “intersection.”  If the memory intersects with the calm scene, instruct the client: see the part of the memory that came into your calm scene go into your container, see the door close, and push your container even farther away.  Push it several hundred miles away.”  Then immediately return to Step Four for another round of calm scene with blinks.

If the client reports that he was able to be mostly in the scene, go to Step Five to get the next link of activation.  Again, most of the work will occur in a cycle between Steps Four and Five.

Important suggestion: Since loading the calm scene quickly is such a key part of this therapy, it is a good idea to do two rounds in Step Four prior to checking the bad memory in Step Five the first time you arrive in Step Four.  Do not do repeated rounds of Step Four after the first time you are in this step when working on a memory or it will unnecessarily slow the process.

Step Three: Select the Target Memory (But Do Not Activate It)

Helpful Related Topics and Links (Optional):

This step requires a little caution. We need to identify the memory that the client wants to work, however, we do not want to activate it.  This is kind of like using the cursor to point to the file on the computer desktop that we want to use, but we don’t double-click it or think about what is in it.  Encourage the client not to talk about it… not even for a few moments.   It’s important that the memory be an actual and individual memory and not a thought, a negative cognition, a general presenting issue (weight or identity issues), or a large cluster of memories.  It is also important to instruct the client that we are working on only one memory at a time and that if other memories want to come, we will need to contain them in a large overflow vault or put them on a shelf for the moment.  You may be tempted to check the SUDs here.  We do not check the residual distress ever in this version of Flash.  You do not need to know and checking the SUDs is what we do when we want to cause activation (which we are not trying to do here).

Step Three should last a maximum of 15-20 seconds.  If you are consistently taking longer than 15-20 seconds and you are not troubleshooting overactivation, you are probably overactivating it (which is one of the major reasons why some Flash sessions don’t end in sunshine).

Before finalizing the selection of the memory, you should always engage client parts for consent or guidance: Do any parts of you have concerns about working on this memory?  If a part objects, involve that part in selecting a memory that may be more tolerable, then ask all parts if the new memory is an acceptable memory.  Repeat if necessary.

Once we identify a memory, we instruct the client to see the general idea of the memory go out of awareness.

Here are some script examples for this part of the process depending on the circumstances, adjust as needed:

  • If the memory was identified in the prior session, you might say: Is that memory that we discussed at the end of last session still the one that you want to work on, or is there another one?  … Good.  Now, see the general idea of that memory (don’t play it) go out of your awareness.  Just push the idea of it farther and farther away until all of awareness is blank.
  • To quickly select a memory that has been recently triggering:  We have talked about using this Flash therapy to work on difficult memory.  Do you have a specific bad memory that would be helpful to work on today?  Maybe one that has been coming up the past week or so. It can be recent or old, but it should be an individual memory and we will only work on this memory. Without telling me much about it, can you let me know when you have a memory that you would like to work on? Good.  See the general idea of that memory (without playing it) go out of your awareness… send it miles and miles away.  Let me know when it is gone.

If the general idea of the memory feels like it is out of awareness, go to Step Four.  If it keeps seeping into awareness, then too much was probably activated in identifying it.  Instruct the client not to engage the memory.  If the memory was activated, you may need to put that distress in the container and push the container out of awareness (again, be careful to not activate the memory in Step Three).  You may need to use the Shop-Vac resource to get distress out of the body if identifying the memory caused body activation.

Step Two: Develop and Test the Calm Scene

All reprocessing “work” in Flash is done while the client is experiencing a calming scene.  Step Two is where we develop this calm scene.  Again, Steps One and Two are the hardware of this approach and we’ll use that hardware over and over in subsequent Flash sessions.

The experience can be imaginary, in the form of a video or picture, or can be a process that the client is actively doing–like petting an actual dog or rocking real baby, see Demos One and Five for pets and actual babies).

The therapist will eventually (in Step Four) guide the client to make a series of rapid blinks while experiencing the calm scene, so the calm scene will need to be something the client can go in and out of quickly.  The scene can be anything that is calming, relaxing, distracting, compelling, or interesting.  It needs to be compelling enough to catch the client’s attention and cause an experiential shift that is different than the expectation/schema in the bad memory.

The calm scene, which Phil Manfield calls the Positive Engaging Focus, can be almost anything.  These are examples:

  • The client watches a beautiful, relaxing, or funny video on YouTube or another service.
  • The client remembers a salient scene from a vacation.
  • The client rocking an actual baby or petting an actual dog (or memories of those activities).  Or, the client watching a cute video of her dog or pet.
  • The client playing a musical instrument (or imagining playing one if the client has those skills).
  • The client imagines cooking his favorite recipe (getting out the recipe, etc).  Or, watching cooking videos.  Or the client brings their favorite sandwich to session and spends 35 minutes smelling it and taking little bites of it.
  • The client with piano training imagines playing their favorite piece of music on the piano.
  • The client listens to a song that has a long history of inducing peace and relaxation.
  • The client watches videos of food (hot pizza coming out of the oven, etc).  Assess for disordered eating beforehand.
  • With a child client, have the client find a video of their favorite YouTuber playing their favorite part of their favorite video game.

If the client has complex trauma or a client comes to a session already flooded, it is highly recommended to outsource the scene to a YouTube video.  Anything that the client finds relaxing can work.  It is difficult for many clients with complex trauma to create and notice a rapid shift in affect if the calm scene has to be created through imagination in the five seconds between “blinks.”  A client with a pervasively traumatized system is likely has a very busy head.  The first choice with complex trauma should be to outsource the calm scene to a video that the client selects.

Verify that the client can “go into and load up the senses of the calm place” before proceeding.  Verify that the calm scene induces a calming, comforting, amused, distracted, or relaxing state.

Parts Language: Does this scene/activity/video work for all parts of you?  Do any parts need a different kind of calm scene?  On occasion, different parts of the client will use different calm scenes in a parallel way (like you are teaching and using this resource in a group setting).  See podcast episodes about working with client parts.

Step Two: The Shop-Vac Resource for Body Distress

Step One (Part Two): A Container for Body Distress

Teaching the Shop-Vac Resource

This information is in the script, but I’m also walking you through it here.

Many other versions of Flash produce sessions that end with residual distress and often it is not clear why.  This version of Flash is grounded in memory reconsolidation as its working mechanism, which has its focus on the client experiencing the calm scene in ways that are disconfirming the expectation/schema in the bad memory. If the client is having body activation from the memory, the client may be having a confirming experience of the expectation in the bad memory (“I’m feeling how I felt when the bad memory was happening”).  Body activation is a problem in the Four Blinks Version of Flash for this reason.  When it appears, the client should be instructed to tell you, so you can help them “scoop” it out and put it in the container or Shop-Vac it out and push the Shop-Vac canister out of awareness.  In Flash, the goal is to process the traumatic information as information and not as distress.

As with all resources, it is a good idea to develop and practice this resource before it is needed.  It is very difficult for clients to learn a new resource when they are flooded or in significant trauma-related distress.

Script: Have you ever used a Shop-Vac or a large coin vacuum at a carwash?

Can you imagine holding the hose of a vacuum with one hand and feeling its suction with the other?

Can you imagine it picking up a small pile of dirt or sand?

If you quickly scan your body right now, can you find a knot, pressure, tension, or emptiness, even if only a little bit?

Can you imagine the “gunk” of that going into your Shop-Vac hose and just try to see the stress or feelings leaving those places and going into the hose like it is colored smoke?  Note: It is not important that the client feel it all (or even most of it) go away.  The Shop-Vac can become a ritual-like resource that may help direct attention and awareness away from that triggering sensation in the body.

Good.  Can you see the canister of the vacuum get pushed far out of awareness… just send it several hundred miles away?

Step One: Developing, Testing, Using, and Understanding the Container

Additional Container Resources:

Clients Who Struggle to Visualize in EMDR Therapy and Flash Therapy
The Catcher’s Mitt Metaphor in Flash Therapy

Extended Step One Script: Develop a Container (Client Can Reuse Between Memories and Sessions) 

If Flash is a way to process traumatic information without distress, but there is distress in traumatic information, it is helpful to have a place for the distress to go that is external to the client’s nervous system.  This may sound bizarre, to separate activation from distress, but that’s what makes Flash effective.  If the distress and the calm scene are both in awareness, Flash will not work, or will work at a crawl and leave substantial debris.

The container in EMDR Therapy and Flash therapy have similarities and differences.  They are similar in that both are boxes that hold difficult stuff.  In EMDR Therapy, we may scoop residual distress up once at the end of a session, see it go into the container, close the door, and leave it there.  In this version of Flash, the container will be used every time we quickly check the memory and all distress will be routed directly into the container, much like a hot potato might be tossed into a casserole dish.  Since we may be checking the memory 30-45 times in an average Flash session, we need a new and empty container to come each time (we’ll talk about why in Step Five).  Note that we are working on the memory only one microslice of it at a time.  The whole memory is not containered, only the right now microslice.  They’re not telling you what they are containering, but if they did, it would be something like: “It’s the way he’s looking at me.”  “The feeling when he says a particular word.”  It is a single frame of the video that gets containered.  If the client plays the video, they have played too much.  If they are telling you what they are containering, they are activating too much. In Flash, the memory is purposefully pushed out of awareness, because all of awareness is needed for the calm scene.  And this all happens quickly, like handling a hot potato.

 The container can be a file folder, a box, a book, a chest, ceramic pots, or anything that works for the client.  The container is then “pushed or sent” far away from the client (ideally hundreds of miles away) to help get it out of direct focus and awareness.  In Step One, we develop the container that we will use over and over.

 It is helpful to confirm that the container works by imagining putting something neutral in it when you are developing it, like an imaginary business card.  This allows us to test and troubleshoot the container safely.   “See the business card go in the container… does it feel like the business card is in the container?  Yes.  Imagine the container going far away until it is just a tiny dot on the horizon.

Let the client know that our goal is to process this memory with virtually no distress and that all distress will be immediately routed to the container.

Script: We are going to work one memory at a time and we are going to do this by not thinking about it or feeling anything about it.  We want to develop a container or a box that will hold whatever small parts of the memory we activate and keep it out of direct awareness.  What kind of container might be helpful?  It can be a file box, a safe, pottery with a lid, or anything that is able to hold something for just a little while.

Ask the client visualize to container… What color is it? What is it made of?  How does it close?

Can you imagine a blank skip of paper or a business card going into this container?  [pause] Can you see the container close?  [pause] Can you imagine pushing that container far away until it is just a tiny speck in the sky?  Does it feel like that container and its contents are far enough away for it to be out of your focus for just right now?  

Parts Language: Does this container work for all parts of you?  Are there parts of you that may need a different type of container or need to make modifications to this one?

The vast majority of clients are able to visualize a container.  If the client struggles to visualize, see the Four Blinks podcast episodes about problems visualizing for ways to outsource the visualization component of the container.
You can always use an actual container that is in the therapy office or in the client’s room through telehealth.