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EMDR Series 3 - Phase 1 of EMDR

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As mentioned in the EMDR Series 2 post, Phase 1 of EMDR can be typically viewed as the intake appointment. An EMDR therapist and a client may also fluidly come back to Phase 1 during the therapeutic relationship as additional memories and insights come up.

When first meeting with me, I will ask clients what’s bringing them to me, why they are seeking EMDR, and what their mental health history has looked like. We also explore trauma history, family psychiatric history, childhood upbringing, social history, legal concerns if any, and pertinent physical health history. I also love to learn more about my clients as humans such as interests, hobbies, pets in the home, anything.

Phase 1 may also include the use of screening tools such as the PTSD Checklist (PCL-5), Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) questionnaire, or the Dissociative Experiences Scale-II (DES) (although I usually administer the DES in Phase 2, which is where I personally like to start all of my clients after the intake appointment).

Phase 1 will also include the development of a Target Sequence Plan. This is essentially the “road map” or timeline of memories, images, and traumas identified by the client that they would like to reprocess. These are referred to as Targets and they may be from the past, present, and future. The clinician and client will also identify the underlying core negative belief that ties these targets together, such as “I’m helpless,” “I should have done something different,” or “I can’t trust my own judgment.” A more adaptive belief will also be identified, such as “I can make my own choices now”, “I did the best I could”, or “I can trust my own judgment now.”

One of the final components of Phase 1 includes strengthening that adaptive belief. This is done by the client identifying times where they felt the adaptive belief was true. The clinician and client will explore those situations, associated emotions, and body sensations and use slow Bilateral Stimulation (BLS) for each positive association.

Once these areas have been addressed and accomplished, the clinician and client may progress to Phase 2 or Phase 3 and reprocessing (if Phase 2 was completed prior).


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.


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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