Essential Theory

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a set of processes that works with the past, present and future to alleviate symptoms and disturbance. Unhelpful and inappropriate emotions, feelings, thoughts and behaviors generated by unresolved experiences are addressed and work is undertaken to develop helpful emotions, understanding and perspectives for future actions and interactions.

The EMDR method was developed by Francine Shapiro in 1987 and is a widely used in the treatment of trauma and PTSD. However, it has many applications, although the majority of research for the use of EMDR has been around post-traumatic stress.
The use of "PTSD" relates to "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder" and generates a range of views regarding the labeling of post-trauma symptoms, with words such as "distress" as an alternative to "disorder". Others will call it a "post-traumatic wound", "post-traumatic response" or a "post-trauma adaptation". For ease of reference, the term PTSD will be used. Tow other terms are "a large T trauma" and "small t trauma". From a processing {making sense of an experience) perspective, a "large T trauma" is considered to be overwhelming to most people, with a life threatening or perceived threat component. A "small t trauma" relates to experiences that may be considered to be upsetting and that we are not able to integrate into our system of understanding and that we are not yet able to integrate into our system of understanding. A number of recent studies have demonstrated that everyday life experiences, such as relationship problems or unemployment, can produce just as many or even more symptoms of trauma than might be expected. Although trauma doesn't have to originate in childhood, there can be childhood experiences that makes us vulnerable. Furthermore, some of our reactions are not based on the present reality, but are primarily caused by memories from the past. These reactions may then contribute to further unhelpful experiences.

A common misperception is that people experiencing trauma can "think" themselves out of their responses. Maclean's (1990) perspective of the triune brain may offer an explanation of how this may be difficult for individuals to achieve without help. The R-Complex brain (reptilian) brainstem and cerebellum control reflex behaviors, muscle control, balance, breathing, heartbeat. These areas are related to our survival and are very reactive direct stimulation.

The limbic system's amygdala, hypothalamus, hippocampus offer our source of emotions and instincts, attachment and also survival, focusing on the avoidance of pain/distress (evaluated as disagreeable) and the seeking of pleasure (evaluated as agreeable). Time is not recognized and logic is not applied. The amygdala is a filter, only allowing what data it identifies as safe through to the neocortex for it then to be integrated into other data stored there. When the amygdala signals danger, an alarm response (fight/flight/freeze) will generate a protective body response. Even after the danger has passed, the thalamus, which has already been activated in the response, will stay on "high alert" for anything similar.

The Neocortex (cerebral cortex) frontal lobe, has executive functioning, higher order thinking skills, reason, speck, meaning and wisdom. It is the part of the brain that some people can be employed to cognitively think themselves out of a trauma response. However, at times of intense emotional disturbance, the limbic system is dominant and the frontal lobe cannot be effectively assessed. Thus, if someone is in a state of intense emotional distress (real time or in response to triggers from earlier unprocessed experiences) reasoning and the application of logic simply are not helpful.
Effective trauma processing's goal is to move or connect emotionally-charged material from the limbic system into the neocortex, for appropriate integration with long-term storage of other data.

The AIP is EMDR's model for how information is process in memory networks of images, thoughts and sounds, sensations, emotions and beliefs.