The Hypotheses of EMDR


The Adaptive Information Processing model is the theoretical foundation of the EMDR approach. It is based on the following hypotheses:

  1. Within each person is a physiological information processing system through which new experiences and information are normally processed to an adaptive state. 

  2. Information is stored in memory networks that contain related thoughts, images, audio or olfactory memories, emotions, and bodily sensations. 

  3. Memory networks are organized around the earliest related event. 

  4. Traumatic experiences and persistent unmet interpersonal needs during crucial periods in development can produce blockages in the capacity of the adaptive information processing system to resolve distressing or traumatic events. 

  5. When information stored in memory networks related to a distressing or traumatic experience is not fully processed, it gives rise to dysfunctional reactions. 

  6. The result of adaptive processing is learning, relief of emotional and somatic distress, and the availability of adaptive responses and understanding. 

  7. Information processing is facilitated by specific types of bilateral sensory stimulation. Based on observational and experimental data, Shapiro has referred to this stimulation as bilateral stimulation (Shapiro, 1995) and dual attention stimulation (Shapiro, 2001). 

  8. Alternating, left-right, visual, audio and tactile stimulation when combined with the other specific procedural steps used in EDMR enhance information processing.

  9. Specific, focused strategies for sufficiently stimulating access to dysfunctionally stored information (and in some cases, adaptive information) generally need to be combined with bilateral stimulation in order to produce adaptive information processing. 

  10. EMDR procedures foster a state of balanced or dual attention between internally accessed information and external bilateral stimulation.  In this state the client experiences simultaneously the distressing memory and the present context. 

  11. The combination of EMDR procedures and bilateral stimulation results in decreasing the vividness of disturbing memory images and related affect, facilitating access to more adaptive information and forging new associations within and between memory networks.