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Healing Body Image Concerns with EMDR and the Adaptive Information Processing Model

In recent years, the mental health field has made significant strides in understanding and addressing body image concerns. One of the most promising approaches to tackling these issues is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, particularly when viewed through the lens of the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model. This blog explores how EMDR and AIP can be utilized to heal body image concerns, drawing on the latest research and integrating contemporary therapeutic techniques.

Understanding Body Image Concerns

Body image concerns can significantly impact an individual’s mental health, leading to conditions such as body dysmorphic disorder, eating disorders, depression, and anxiety. These concerns often stem from a combination of societal pressures, personal experiences, and trauma. Addressing these concerns effectively requires a nuanced approach that considers both the psychological and physiological aspects of the issue.

Healing Body Image Concerns
Body Positivity

The Power of Body Positivity

Body positivity is a transformative movement that empowers individuals to embrace and love their bodies regardless of shape, size, or appearance. This philosophy challenges societal standards of beauty, promoting self-acceptance and confidence. Embracing body positivity can significantly improve mental health by reducing feelings of shame and inadequacy. It encourages people to focus on their unique qualities and strengths rather than perceived flaws. Integrating body positivity into therapeutic practices helps individuals develop a healthier, more accepting relationship with their bodies, fostering resilience and self-compassion. This shift not only aids in healing body image concerns but also enhances overall well-being and quality of life.

EMDR and the Adaptive Information Processing Model

What is EMDR?

EMDR is a psychotherapy treatment originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories. It involves the use of bilateral stimulation (typically eye movements, but also taps or tones) to help clients process and integrate traumatic experiences. EMDR is grounded in the AIP model, which posits that much of psychopathology is due to unprocessed or maladaptively stored memories.

The Adaptive Information Processing Model

The AIP model suggests that traumatic or distressing experiences can disrupt the way memories are processed and stored in the brain. Normally, our brains process experiences and store them in an adaptive way, allowing us to learn and grow from them. However, when an experience is overwhelming, it can become "stuck," leading to the persistence of negative emotions, beliefs, and physical sensations.

By using EMDR to target these maladaptively stored memories, individuals can reprocess them, allowing for the integration of healthier beliefs and the reduction of distressing symptoms.

Applying EMDR to Body Image Concerns

Targeting Negative Self-Beliefs

One of the core components of body image issues is the presence of negative self-beliefs, such as "I am ugly," "I am worthless," or "I don't deserve to be loved." EMDR can be used to identify and reprocess the memories that underpin these beliefs. By doing so, individuals can replace these negative beliefs with more positive, adaptive ones.

Addressing Traumatic Experiences

Many individuals with body image concerns have a history of trauma, such as bullying, abuse, or critical comments about their appearance. EMDR allows these individuals to process these traumatic memories, reducing their emotional charge and helping to diminish their impact on current self-perception.

Integrating Positive Resources

EMDR also incorporates the installation of positive resources. This involves helping clients to develop and strengthen positive self-beliefs and coping strategies. By integrating these resources, clients can build a more resilient and positive body image.

Recent Evidence and Research

Recent studies have provided strong support for the efficacy of EMDR in treating body image concerns. A 2020 study published in the "Journal of EMDR Practice and Research" found that EMDR significantly reduced symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder in participants, demonstrating the therapy’s potential for addressing severe body image issues . Another study from 2021 highlighted the effectiveness of EMDR in reducing negative body image and eating disorder symptoms in adolescents, suggesting that early intervention can be particularly beneficial .

Integrating Trauma-Informed Care

Trauma-informed care is an essential component of addressing body image concerns, as it ensures that therapy is conducted in a safe, respectful, and empowering manner. This approach acknowledges the prevalence of trauma and its impact on individuals, aiming to create a therapeutic environment that is sensitive to these experiences.

Principles of Trauma-Informed Care

  1. Safety: Ensuring physical and emotional safety for clients.

  2. Trustworthiness and Transparency: Building trust through transparency and consistency.

  3. Peer Support: Encouraging support networks and peer interactions.

  4. Collaboration and Mutuality: Fostering collaboration between therapist and client.

  5. Empowerment, Voice, and Choice: Prioritizing the client’s empowerment and participation in their treatment.

  6. Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues: Recognizing and addressing cultural and gender-based influences on trauma and body image.

Latest Therapeutic Techniques for Healthy Body Image

Mindfulness and Self-Compassion

Incorporating mindfulness and self-compassion practices into therapy can help individuals develop a healthier relationship with their bodies. Mindfulness encourages present-moment awareness and non-judgmental acceptance of one’s body, while self-compassion fosters kindness and understanding towards oneself.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT remains a foundational approach for addressing body image issues. It focuses on identifying and challenging distorted thoughts and beliefs about one’s body and developing healthier, more realistic perspectives.

Integrative Approaches

Combining EMDR with other therapeutic modalities, such as somatic experiencing, art therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), can enhance treatment outcomes. These integrative approaches address both the cognitive and somatic aspects of body image concerns, promoting holistic healing.


Healing body image concerns requires a comprehensive and compassionate approach that addresses both the psychological and physiological dimensions of the issue. EMDR, grounded in the Adaptive Information Processing model, offers a powerful tool for reprocessing traumatic memories and transforming negative self-beliefs. By integrating EMDR with trauma-informed care principles and the latest therapeutic techniques, individuals can achieve a healthier and more positive body image, paving the way for improved mental health and overall well-being.



  1. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 2020.

  2. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 2021.

With love, AGLOW

Stacy Ruse, LPC, RYT, EMDR & IFS Consultant

Stacy Ruse, LPC, is an esteemed Evergreen EMDR & IFS-Institute Consultant, and founder of Aglow Counseling. Stacy teaches a therapeutic style that is characterized by the art of EMDR & IFS therapies with a transpersonal twist, transcending the conventional boundaries of traditional therapy. Her holistic approach acknowledges the interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit allowing individuals to tap into their innate resilience and ignite their personal transformation journey. As a trauma expert, national and international trainer, and clinical consultant, Stacy's approach is deeply rooted in trauma-informed methodologies.


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