EMDR and metacognitive therapy: Same destination, different language


The information processing model has been described in many different ways and is potentially the underlying process that describes the psychotherapy change process, regardless of orientation. In this poster I will briefly compare Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing and Meta-Cognitive Therapy in light of this information processing model and conclude that although they may use different language to describe their theories, a unifying information processing model describes both paradigms. Human beings are meaning making machines (Robbins, 2009). We give meaning to the world, the deeds we do and the interactions we have, as well as the more fundamental senses we experience (Frankl, 2004). Information arises either from external stimulus or internal process’s and this information goes through our filters where we delete, distort and generalise this information based on the rules created in our information processing unit (Fig 1). This information processing mechanism gives meaning to this filtered information and generates a response, this response interacts with this information and the cycle then repeats in a self regulatory manner. This process is repeated for everything we do; we are and continues until we die. Mental health issues arise when this self regulatory system fails to make a useful functional meaning of the information. Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) was developed by Francine Shapiro (1989) for the treatment of trauma memories and associated emotions, changing the meaning the person gives to their experiences. Metacognitive Therapy (MCT) was developed by Wells and Matthews (1984) as a way of defining the processes that underpin a range of psychological disorders. One of the features of psychological disorders such as anxiety or depression is that thinking becomes difficult to control and biased in particular ways that lead to a worsening and maintenance of emotional suffering. Many clients report that they feel that they have ‘lost control’ over their thoughts and behaviours. Another important feature is that the persons thinking and attention becomes fixed in patterns of brooding and dwelling on the self and threatening information. Both EMDR and MCT describe an information management/processing system that organises and carries out various tasks such as how to open a door, how to get dressed, how to be anxious, how to respond to a trauma memory Both therapies appear to change this system / process to something that is much more adaptive for the client, as if they change the master information management control programme that runs this system, in the same way a conductor influences the orchestra and the music they produce. Both models describe the same process, although they utilise different language to describe this change process. Perhaps a change of focus for the development of pychotherapy towards more process change models rather than content change interventions.






Matthew Cole

Original Work Citation

Cole, M. (2010, July). EMDR and metacognitive therapy: Same destination, different language. Poster presented at the 38th Annual Conference of the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies, Manchester, UK



“EMDR and metacognitive therapy: Same destination, different language,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed December 7, 2021, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/21325.

Output Formats