EMDR Series 5 - Phase 2 Techniques: The Container

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The Container technique is one of many possible resources and skills that may be taught in Phase 2 of EMDR. The Container is a mental imagery-based tool that can be used inside and outside of sessions. When an unpleasant image, body image, emotion, or memory comes up and it’s not the time or one is not ready/able to contend with it, those things can be invited to go into the Container until it is time for them to be addressed. 

The Container can be just about anything even if it defies the rules of physics or reality. Along with any other creative aspects of the Container, it’s important to also keep in mind the following 3 characteristics:

  1. The Container is strong - whatever materials, protections, etc make up the Container, it is strong enough to hold the things placed in there.

  2. There is a way to put things in and take things out when ready. Is there a separate door? Is there a special latch that allows things to be put in? The sky’s the limit.

  3. The inside is comfortable, organized, etc so that whatever is placed in the Container will want to stay inside.

Once the client identifies what their Container looks like, the clinician and client will practice recalling the Container and placing things in there. An important part of this practice includes the use of slow BLS sets and noticing shifts that may be happening in the body as things are placed into the Container.

For example, a client may notice tension in the shoulders when recalling a recent argument with a friend. When the client is cued to place the tension into the Container, the client may notice how shifts occur in the body and in the emotional state. If a positive association is disclosed (i.e., reduced tension in the body, feeling more at peace), slow BLS is administered to reinforce the shifts.

There are two important things to remember with the Container.

First, it is not a box or dumpster in which you throw things into and avoid. It is important to eventually come back to these things to process them. I encourage clients to place things into their Container until our next session so we can discuss them together.

Second, sometimes things just feel too big to go into the Container. That’s okay! Notice how it feels to try to put as much of the image/emotion/body sensation as you can into the Container. Even if it’s 10% contained, how does that feel? What do you notice? That’s 10% you don’t have to hold right now. Keep doing this until you feel that it is as contained as it can be.

If you would like to practice with your Container, I recommend listening to the Notice That podcast episode here (1).

If you are curious to learn more about EMDR or are interested in beginning your EMDR therapy journey, please reach out to me via the Contact Me page on my website. You can also learn more about EMDR as well as additional EMDR therapists in your area by visiting the EMDR International Association’s website here.


  1. Savage, J., Benintendi, M., & Falkenstien, B. (2019, November 19). Episode 15: Container. Notice That. https://emdr-podcast.com/episode-15-container/

Reminder: these blog posts are meant to be purely educational and/or entertainment tools and do NOT replace psychotherapy and/or other medically necessary treatments.

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