1. Preparation: Because we do part of your history when we first meet, we can move straight to resource building. This is where we figure out what emotional resources you already have (like can you move from really angry to calmer) and what other resources we might need. We also do any assessments (to see what might be barriers to the process) and some education about realistic expectations for EMDR.
Some clients like to try to skip this step. And I get it. You want it fixed and you want it now. BUT, without paying attention to this step, we risk making things worse. Sorry, not gonna do it.
2. Client History: Here, we take a thorough history of the issues you might want to tackle with EMDR. From there, we narrow it down to the first target (incident or memory) you’d like to address. Once we identify that, we do what’s called a floatback to get to the earliest or worst memory. That becomes our first target to process.
3. Assessment: Next, we identify the picture, negative cognition, emotion, and body location of the issue. At this time, some therapists also bring in the positive cognition/belief, but some wait until the negative one has been resolved so you can stay more in the moment. There must be some emotional response in the present, or EMDR isn’t as effective. Good news though, coping with these is why we do the preparation phase!
4. Desensitization: This is where you will be prompted to follow a light or hand, use the buzzers (that vibrate in each hand), or listen to a tone that alternates from one ear to the other. After some time, I check in to see what is coming to the surface. If all goes well, we move on to step 5.
5. Installation: Once everything seems to be clear, we move to “installing” the positive cognition. No, you are not a computer. This just means we take the original incident and pair it with a positive belief that fits where you are at with the situation now.
6. Body Scan: Here, you will pay attention to your body sensations, working from the top of your head, down to your toes. Any sensation, whether positive or negative, you tell me about and we do more processing. Once that is clear, we move to step 7.
7: Closure: We wrap up the session with a containment (soothing) exercise and a reminder that processing could continue outside of the session. This is another reason for the preparation phase; so you can soothe yourself if you are triggered while your brain is continuing to work. It is also important for you to have supports you can rely on in case you are having a harder time between sessions.
8. Reevaluation: At our next session, we look at the original target and make sure it has remained clear (nothing new has come up and there are no residual feelings or body sensations related to the target). If so, we move on to a new target.