Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapeutic approach guided by the adaptive information processing (AIP) model. This article provides a brief overview of some of the major precepts of AIP. The basis of clinical pathology is hypothesized to be dysfunctionally stored memories, with therapeutic change resulting from the processing of these memories within larger adaptive networks. Unlike extinction-based exposure therapies, memories targeted in EMDR are posited to transmute during processing and are then again stored by a process of reconsolidation. Therefore, a comparison and contrast to extinction-based information processing models and treatment is provided, including implications for clinical practice. Throughout the article a variety of mechanisms of action are discussed, including those inferred by tenets of the AIP model, and the EMDR procedures themselves, including the bilateral stimulation. Research suggestions are offered in order to investigate various hypotheses.
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EMDR is an integrative, client-centered psychotherapy approach that emphasizes the brain’s information processing system and memories of disturbing experiences as the bases of those pathologies not caused by organic deficit or insult. EMDR addresses the experiences that contribute to clinical conditions and those needed to bring the client to a robust state of psychological health. Overviews of the history, development, and research that have established EMDR as an empirically supported treatment are provided. Subsequent to an explanation of the adaptive information processing model, an extended case example is used to illustrate the recommended EMDR case conceptualization and eight phases of treatment. This approach is used to process the early memories that set the foundation for the pathology and the present situations that trigger the dysfunction, while providing templates for appropriate future action that incorporate the information and behaviors needed to overcome skill and/or developmental deficits. The benefits of integrating EMDR and family systems perspectives to provide the most comprehensive therapeutic effects are described.