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EMDR Cognitions

The standard protocol in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) requires the identification of a target image and a negative cognition. Some clients find it hard to identify a suitable cognition and find this list of negative and positive cognitions can be a helpful discussion point.

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The EMDR Cognitions worksheet is a list of negative and positive cognitions for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). A negative cognition is paired with a target image as a 'start point' for EMDR processing. Clients are also asked for a desired positive cognition, whether or not they believe in its validity. By this method clients are helped to process information in their trauma memory network (of which the negative cognition is a part), and to integrate it with more adaptive information (of which the positive cognition is a part). Cognitions as EMDR targets fall into four categories: self-defectiveness, responsibility, safety / vulnerability, control / choice.


Many clients initially find it difficult to identify the negative cognitions (NC's) which are necessary part of the standard EMDR protocol. Some clients find it easier to grasp the concept when presented with a selection of negative beliefs. Clients can be asked to "think about your index trauma and look through this list - tell me if anything jumps out at you".


  • Shapiro, F. (2001). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Basic Principles, Protocols, and Procedures (2nd edition). New York: Guilford Press.