I was introduced to Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model in my EMDR basic training. I was immediately drawn to EMDR because the AIP model fits my belief about human nature and tendencies. The more clinical experiences I have had, the more I realize that human beings have the desire to grow and learn by nature. We want to complete unfinished business, and we want to correct what went wrong to reach completion. With a sense of completion, humans can continue to grow and move on to the next thing in life.
According to Dr. Shapiro (2018), the founder of EMDR therapy, “there appears to be a neurological balance in a distinct physiological system that allows information to be processed to an “adaptive solution,” which in this model is a resolution in which the connection to appropriate association is made and the experience is integrated into a positive emotional and cognitive schema. Essentially, what is useful is learned and stored with appropriate affect and is available for future use.” (p.26)
The AIP model describes human nervous systems and memory networks constantly processing information. The new information and experiences are assimilated into the memory network for future reference. The memory network is connected and stored based on somatic information, sensory, cognition, and emotions. Under normal circumstances, emotions, physical sensations, and cognitions will be integrated (or assimilated) into the memory network. Here is the image I have in my head of the memory network based on the AIP model.
Yellow represents the somatic or physical sensation. Red represents the five senses or sensory information. Green represents cognition. Blue represents emotions. Early childhood development and memories create the foundations of the memory network. In every incident we experience, the information is assimilated into the memory network for future use.
However, some distressing experiences couldn’t be processed through the memory network naturally and imbalanced the nervous system. For example, the nervous system might fight, flight, or freeze in traumatic situations while our brain is going through different chemical fluctuations such as cortisol release or adrenaline spikes, etc..The information acquired in these traumatic experiences (such as smells, images, physical sensations, cognitions, and emotions) overwhelms the adaptive information system. As a result, it is stored in a disturbing state, unable to be assimilated into the memory network.
EMDR and AIP model fits my belief about the human’s innate ability to learn and to grow. In my EMDR basic training, I realized that “Within the AIP model, we believed our brain has its natural healing power to process through these traumatic memories, take the information we can still use and need, and put into the memory network, and to restore our natural information processing adaptation.”
Shapiro, F. (2018). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy: Basic principles, protocols and procedures. (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.