Arts-based EMDR treatment of PTSD from a constructivist view


The basic tenet of the model proposed here is that individuals hold certain beliefs and expectations, or schemata, about the self and others, which both shape and are shaped by their experiences in the world. Various psychophysiological states, or feelings, are attached to these beliefs. It is proposed that traumatized persons experience disturbances in schemata within one or more of five areas of psychological and interpersonal functioning found to be consistently salient for survivors of severe trauma: safety; trust; power; esteem; and intimacy. Schematization can be viewed as learning; that is, an enlargement upon, or transformation, of pre-existing schemata which causes any alteration in cognition or behavior in order to maintain discrepancy at an optimal level. Metaphor stretches the boundaries of adaptation achieved through the schematization process. A tolerance for arousal, which can be enhanced by the ability to use metaphor, is motivation for creative endeavor. The creative person recognizes that prediction is associated with repetition, but that life continually produces novelty. Unlike the victim of trauma whose cognitive schematization process is rigidified around the schemas of trauma, the creative person uses metaphor in his/her interpretation of novel events and discrepancy in learning. The question or problem is then a creation, or a device for growth. Transformational experiences facilitate a more flexible, well-organized, and well-elaborated cognitive schematization of self and/or the world. Such an enhanced cognitive system extends one's capacity to create meaningful narratives, which in turn enhances one's self esteem and focused, purposeful behaviors. It is proposed here that transformational experiences which occur during the process of EMDR may be facilitating the subordination of rigidified traumatic self-schema under more flexible, more coherent, and more elaborate schematizations of self (superordinate constructs) by modulation of arousal to a level optimal for the assimilation and accommodation of discrepant or novel inputs (cognitive restructuring). It is further proposed that modalities which engender or enact metaphor, such as the arts and psychodrama, would synergistically catalyze, extend, and deepen the transformational experience of EMDR-facilitated cognitive restructuring, and visa versa. Each domain of psychological and interpersonal functioning which has been rigidly cognized and enacted as a result of severe traumatization, would be addressed through sequential stages of EMDR and Arts-based therapy applications. This program consists of a brief didactic presentation of theoretical foundation, audiovisual and anecdotal, or enacted, illustrations of Arts-based EMDR treatment sessions, and a brief experiential segment, followed by an informal group processing of that experience within a Narrative Constructivist framework.






Rosemarie D. Amendolia

Original Work Citation

Amendolia, R. D. (1997, July). Arts-based EMDR treatment of PTSD from a constructivist view. Presentation at the 2nd EMDR International Association Conference, San Francisco, CA



“Arts-based EMDR treatment of PTSD from a constructivist view,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed October 28, 2020,

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