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  • Writer's pictureLiz Khalighi

Trauma Recovery Using the Adaptive Information Processing Model (AIP): Helping trauma survivors heal

Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) is a model that is widely used in the field of psychotherapy and counselling to help clients process traumatic experiences. The AIP model proposes that the brain is naturally equipped to heal itself and that when traumatic events occur, the brain's ability to process information is disrupted. The AIP model suggests that by providing targeted therapeutic interventions, clients can regain control over their cognitive and emotional responses to trauma, ultimately leading to healing and recovery. At MPC, our specially trained therapists facilitate the use of this model using a powerful treatment modality called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).


What is Adaptive Information Processing (AIP)?


Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) explains how the brain processes information and how traumatic experiences disrupt this process. According to the AIP model, traumatic experiences create "blockages" in the brain's natural information processing system, leading to a range of symptoms, including anxiety, depression, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and avoidance behaviours. post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


The AIP model proposes that by using targeted therapeutic interventions, clients can begin to process these traumatic memories in a more adaptive way. By doing so, the brain can reorganize and integrate the fragmented memories, allowing the client to regain control over their cognitive and emotional responses to the traumatic event.


What are the key components of Adaptive Information Processing (AIP)?


There are several key components of Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) that are important to understand in order to use the model effectively in therapy. These components include:


1. Dual Attention: The AIP model proposes that in order to process traumatic memories in a more adaptive way, clients need to be able to attend to both the traumatic memory and a neutral or positive stimulus simultaneously. By doing so, clients are able to process the traumatic memory in a less overwhelming way.


2. Bilateral Stimulation: The AIP model involves bilateral stimulation (i.e., stimulating both sides of the body). This can help to reorganize and integrate fragmented memories. Bilateral stimulation can be achieved through a variety of methods, including eye movements, tapping, or sound. At MPC, we use various forms of bilateral stimulation in session based on what works best for our clients.


3. Memory Networks: The AIP model suggests that traumatic memories are stored in a network of related memories, thoughts, and emotions. By targeting specific memories within this network, therapists can help clients to reorganize and integrate the traumatic memory with other related memories in a more adaptive way.


4. Desensitization: The AIP model involves careful and strategic exposure to the clients traumatic memory (using visualization of focus on physiological responses). In a controlled and safe environment, clients can begin to desensitize to the memory, leading to a reduction in symptoms over time.

What does this process look like in a therapy session?


In EMDR therapy, clients are asked to recall a traumatic memory while engaging in bilateral stimulation (usually through eye movements, tapping or sounds through a headset). This allows the client to attend to the traumatic memory in a less overwhelming way, while also reorganizing and integrating the memory with other related memories in a more adaptive way.


Many of our clients who have engaged in EMDR treatment often share that they feel "lighter", or that they "feel more in control." Some will describe a significant reduction in their symptoms when they focus on their traumatic experiences. It is important to note that everyone's experience is unique and that while the outcome of EMDR therapy can be life changing, the process can be overwhelming. Clients move through an 8 phase protocol that includes a thorough history taking, screening for contra-indicators, and resourcing in order to cultivate readiness.


If you would like to learn more about whether EMDR is a good fit for you, reach out to our office to schedule a complementary consult with one of our EMDR therapists.




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