Tip #2: You’re ready for Phase III: You need a memory

March 16, 2020

Let’s take a moment and think about what EMDR is: it is a memory based intervention.

When you are ready to have your client move into the active phases of reprocessing, you start with Phase III: Assessment, and the first thing you need is a specific, well understood memory.

EMDR taps into neural networks, so that memories can be reprocessed.  We have to start by recalling a specific memory.  A vague idea won’t activate the neural network in an effective way.

For example: the following illustrates how to develop a specific memory.  Please recall, you have developed a strong relationship with your client as well as a treatment plan, and you are now ready for Phase III: Assessment, so that you can go straight into re-processing.

You say: “We have been talking about how you freeze whenever someone yells at you.  For example, you’ve spoken about how your boss will criticized you in this loud and aggressive voice, and you just stand there, completely frozen.”

Client: “Yes, my boss.  He’s horrible.  He screams at me all the time.  I just stand there feeling stupid.  My mind goes blank.  I swear it happens everyday.  I feel so bad.”  Your client is reporting a general situation not a specific time.”

You say: “Yes, you have shared that he often yells at you.  For now, let’s remember a specific instance.  Last week you spoke of a conference you attended, and he yelled at you, and you said you’d like to reprocess that target memory.  Is there a specific time during that conference  you can specifically recall?”

Client: “Yes, there was this awful situation.”

You say: “Tell me about it.  What happened?”

Client: “I was getting coffee, and he was talking to a colleague, assuming I was listening.  I was not able to hear them over all the noise because the room was full of people, so I asked what he had said.  He turned on me, and looked at me like I was useless and said in this loud voice that I was inept and not helpful.  As he yelled at me, my colleague started laughing, and the two of them walked off.  I felt sick.”

You take a moment to repeat what he said, so that the memory is clear and understood.  You want the full story: the beginning, middle and end of that specific occurrence.  You ask if there is anything else to add.  And repeat the full memory.

Once you have the memory, which is your target memory, you ask for the worst part of that memory.  The worst part is the point of entry into the neural network, and it is from the worst part that you get the negative cognition, positive cognition, emotion, and body sensation.

Taking a minute to develop a memory ensures a more effective and helpful activation of the neural network, which leads to better processing results, and greater resolution of the disturbance.

It is important not to just go with a vague and general bad sense of things.  Even though making someone talk about something really disturbing may feel tortuous, it is important to do, so that a specific memory is identified.  So take a moment and discuss a specific event that occurred.

Getting started correctly helps you help your clients.

Good luck!!!