EMDR Continued- Checking in with the Present and Future

After finishing the past memory – it is no longer distressing, the positive belief feels absolutely true, and the body is clear of uncomfortable physical sensations – we turn our attention to the present and future. We need to make sure current triggers have diminished as a result of the reprocessing of the target memory. 

If present experiences are still feeling activated, we target current related issues like we did with the memory from the past – we set it up with the image, beliefs, and present emotions, distress, and physical sensations and then utilize bilateral stimulation until it is resolved. Once that is completed (and some people do not need to target the present at all), we turn our attention to future scenarios. The future is important as it builds on the changes created with the memory reprocessing and allows for the client to think of future situations where they may have previously responded from a place of maladapted information and think of how they may respond differently. Here’s an example:

After reprocessing a memory from childhood, the client installed a positive belief of I am worthy. She knows that she needs to confront her partner about him always leaving dishes in the sink, and used to lash out when she would come home to dirty dishes. Having worked through the past-present connection that was impacting her response, she completes a future scenario where she envisions responding in a calmer way that allows for her to get her needs met. Then, while thinking through that scenario, she is pairing it with the positive belief of worthiness and utilizing slow bilateral movements (slow movements do not activate memory networks the way fast bilateral movements do). After she runs through the scenario in her head, she reports that the belief feels absolutely true, and runs through another one that is slightly more challenging, as a way to prepare for different outcomes. 

Once the future scenarios are complete, EMDR (for this round!) is finally complete. This can take anywhere from one to several sessions, depending on the memory, beliefs that may be blocking reprocessing, and present issues that are activated with the memory network. 

How soon can a client expect to feel better? Honestly, after the first session if the memory is fully reprocessed (even without the future work completed). Changes in behavior can occur quickly too, and we will continue to strengthen the positive changes with those slow bilateral movements in sessions to come.