Phases 5 & 6
Answering the “what”, “why” and “how” of each phase of EMDR.
Phase 5 of EMDR Therapy: Installation
What is the purpose of this phase?
When a traumatic event happens we often ‘file-it’ or assign a belief about ourselves to the event that may be negatively impacting our present day functioning.
During Phase 3, you had identified with your therapist the positive cognition (or PC) that you would like to believe when recalling that traumatic memory. The goal of Phase 5 is to strengthen that preferred belief attached to the memory.
Why is this phase important?
We can’t change a bad memory to become a good memory- but we can change the way a bad experience impacts our present.
With Phase 5 we are making sure that the negative cognition (NC) that was once assigned to the memory is no longer the belief that comes to mind when recalling the event(s).
The intention here is to strengthen the positive cognition (PC) to 100% truthfulness/believability. (or in EMDR terms- we want to get the validity of cognition (VOC) to a 7 out of 7).
How can I expect this phase of EMDR to look and feel?
Your original PC identified in Phase 3 may have shifted or changed during the reprocessing (often it does!). Your therapist will check in and see if the previously identified belief is most fitting- or if a new/different belief feels like it is more appropriate at this time.
The intention here is to hold in mind the memory and the preferred belief while using BLS to strengthen the validity of cognition (VOC)- in other words assessing for: "how true do those words feel when paired with the memory now?"
The bilateral stimulation (BLS) used in this phase is at a slower and shorter pace compared to Phase 4's BLS.
Phase 6: Body Scan
What happens during this phase?
Once the memory and PC are installed/strengthened, we have to check in with the rest of our body to ensure that no residual negative feelings are stuck that need to be reprocessed.
Even with a SUD (subjective level of disturbance) of 0/10 and a VOC of 7/7- there may be some residual trauma stuck in the body that needs to be cleared out to ensure lasting results from reprocessing.
Why is the Body Scan important in the reprocessing phases?
Memories are not just stored cognitively, but they are also stored somatically. If we ignore the sensations in our body, we run the risk of not clearing out all of the "yuck" attached to the memory.
Some traumatic events happen at a pre-verbal period in our life. This is one example of why it is important to not only process the trauma from a cognitive frame, but also to attend to the somatic and emotional impact that our memories have.
How can I expect this to feel?
Your therapist will ask you to hold in mind the memory with the chosen PC and scan from head to toe- noticing if there is any tension, tightness or discomfort recognized in the body.
Examples of sensations in the body may include (but are not limited to):
Tightness in your chest
The feeling of "a lump in your throat"
The feeling of "a knot in your stomach"
Tension in your head/face or other clenched muscles
If there is reported uncomfortable sensations your therapist will return to the reprocessing phase (Phase 4) to clear out whatever "yuck that is stuck" using long and fast sets of BLS.
If there is no reported discomfort- your therapist will use slower, shorter sets of BLS to help install and strengthen the felt-sense clarity and calmness.
Just remember- there are no "should's" in this process.
Your journey is unique to you.
If you find yourself having to go back to the earlier phases of reprocessing in these later phases: It's OK!
Your brain is capable of being rewired and your body is capable of healing after experiencing trauma- it just takes time.
The EMDR Therapy Progress Journal by Dana Carretta-Stein, is a wonderful tool and companion for anyone going through their own EMDR Therapy Journey. It is an interactive journal to use while working with your therapist.
Annabella Lipson is a Mental Health Counselor at Peaceful Living Mental Health Counseling.
She enjoys working with young adults & adults who are dealing with stress, anxiety, grief, trauma, PTSD and other challenges.
Annabella helps clients develop healthy communication skills, learn to tolerate and manage uncomfortable emotions and develop insightful decision-making skills.