Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is based on the Adaptive Information Processing Model (AIP). This model states that we are geared towards health and have the inherent potential to get there. For example, when our bodies break a bone or we cut our selves our bodies mend in the way that is most adaptive for us. According to AIP the same thing is supposed to happen when something traumatic happens to our minds. Our minds wants to process that information in the way that is most adaptive for us, but sometimes it doesn’t.
Adaptive Information Processing means that it isn’t as important what happens to you as what you tell yourself about what happens to you. For example, let’s say we have two people that were physically harmed, exactly the same physical harm, same severity, the same everything. Person X tells themselves –I am permanently damaged. – I deserved that because I was dressed like inappropriately. – All men are bad. –I can’t trust anyone. Person Y tells themselves -I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. –Sometimes bad things happen to good people. –I am strong and resilient to have survived that. So you can see that it isn’t the physical harm that is going to determine symptoms, it is how they process the information, or the messages they tell themselves about the physical harm.
EMDR replicates what your mind does during REM sleep to help your mind process information in a healthier, more adaptive manner. You can tell when someone is in REM sleep when you see their eyes moving back in forth in their head during sleep. This is called bilateral stimulation, from one side to the other. During REM sleep is when your mind processes information. If you picture your mind like a big messy room and REM sleep (bilateral stimulation) is the maid that comes in and cleans up the room. But sometimes that maid misses a pile, that pile is information that hasn’t been processed in a way that is most adaptive for you. What actually happens to that pile, since memories are associative and accumulative, is that it becomes more like a magnet. Let’s say the maladaptive message in that pile is ‘I am not good enough’ or ‘ I am permanently damaged.’ Everything that happens and the mind can interpret that way gets drawn to the pile and it gets bigger and bigger and pretty soon that becomes our live themes. Through this pile is how we interpret ourselves and the world. What EMDR does is ask the maid to focus on that pile and put the stuff away in a more adaptive way for us, by using bilateral stimulation to replicate REM sleep. EMDR actually moves information around in our brains. It takes information that is stuck in the back of our brains, which is responsible for the fight or flight response and brings the information to the front of our brains which is responsible for thinking and reasoning. EMDR doesn’t take our memories away, it allows us to look at them in a more adaptive way and without the body sensations that comes along with them.