1. Determine the emotion or behavior you would like to change
The first step to this process is finding the behavior or emotion you would like to change. This could be anxiety, depression, or any negative emotion or belief about yourself.
During this phase, it is important to be specific and honest with yourself. Do not go with logic, go with what you feel. Once you determine this, and feel confident with your answer, move on to step 2.
2. Determine your ‘negative belief’
With strong emotions always comes a negative belief you hold about yourself. For anxiety, it may be ‘I am powerless’ or ‘I am trapped’. For depression, it may be ‘I am hopeless’ or ‘I am a loser’. This phase may be uncomfortable, but remember: finding the negative belief you hold true is important. Be honest with how you feel here. Also, it is important to note that just because you feel a certain way does not make it true! With EMDR processing, we will be changing this belief and becoming happy once again.
3. Find your target memories
This is the most important thing to do before beginning an EMDR session. You need to find your target memories, which are the memories you are going to process during your EMDR session. Think back to the most recent time you felt anxious, depressed, or whatever emotion you are trying to change. Then float back to the first time you felt that way, and write down all the significant memories in between.
If you find a memory that still feels disturbing, this is an important memory. Any memory that makes you feel uncomfortable or disturbing still affects your consciousness. A good example of this would be feeling anxious when thinking about a previous panic attack, or feeling depressed when thinking of a past break-up. This means that this memory has not been processed, and processing this memory could greatly benefit your mental health!
4. Begin processing (10-15 minutes) – Use Headphones!
First, adjust the EMDR tool to be comfortable for you. Using headphones is a must to get the full effect.
To process a memory, all you need to do is tell yourself your negative belief while focusing on the related memories. Try focusing on the earliest memory first and work your way up, but sometimes your brain will direct you itself, so just go with the flow! Dont force yourself to move on. Focus on disturbing memories until they no longer feel disturbing. Remember, changing a behavior may take several sessions, so don’t be disappointed if it takes more than one session to process everything!
Your brain may open up new memories during this process. If this happens, don’t fight it and just go along for the ride!
5. Replace negative beliefs (Last 5 minutes)
After you have completed the processing session, you will then tell yourself the opposite of your negative belief, while imagining the life you want to have. Do this for the last five minus. After your brain processes negative memories, giving yourself these positive affirmations and memories afterward can help your brain replace the processed memories and this can further help change your behavior.
6. Do a grounding exercise (5 minutes
To help the processing process end, do a grounding exercise when you are completed. Many people prefer to listen to meditation music while looking at a relaxing picture, such as a beach or a picture of a cute animal. Try avoiding social media or the news during this phase, as EMDR can make your emotions run high.
7. Repeat as needed
After you complete a processing session, give yourself 24 hours until you try it again. Your brain will adapt to these new changes and the next time you process, your memories or beliefs may be different.
EMDR is different for everyone! While not much is understood about EMDR, we do have many positive success cases. We recommend finding what works best for you and always focus on feelings, rather than logic.
Trying several different test runs with EMDR is recommended to find what works best for you!