A Call to Revise EMDRIA’s Definition of EMDR

EMDRIA’s Definition of EMDR (Definition) implicitly promotes psychiatric concepts and practices that are invalid and inapplicable to EMDR.

The Definition states, “EMDR is an evidence-based psychotherapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).”

PTSD is a “diagnosis” in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) catalog of “mental diseases,”* which is unreliable and invalid. Moreover, “mental diseases,” which psychiatry claims are caused by “chemical imbalances,” have no lab tests (e.g., blood tests, x-rays, microscopic analysis of tissues, etc.) like real diseases do and are totally lacking in evidence.

Therefore, it does not even make sense to talk about “evidence-based” treatment of a “mental disease” that essentially does not exist.

Instead, the Definition should refer to what EMDR actually does, which is eliminate people’s “ongoing disturbances” caused by incompletely processed or unprocessed memories of threats or losses they experienced with strong emotions and were unable to overcome or escape.

The Definition states “The model on which EMDR is based, Adaptive Information Processing (AIP), posits that much of psychopathology is due to the maladaptive encoding of and/or incomplete processing of traumatic or disturbing adverse life experiences.”

A dictionary definition of “psychopathology” is “related to disease.”

Therefore, EMDRIA’s conceptualization of the “model” EMDR is based upon pertains to “mental diseases,” which do not exist. Consequently, EMDRIA’s conceptualization of EMDR can not be valid.

Instead, “psychopathology” and other psychiatric terms that refer to non-existent “mental diseases” should be removed from the Definition.

The Definition states, “This treatment approach . . . results in the alleviation of presenting symptoms . . .”

A dictionary definition of “symptom” refers to “evidence of disease.” Moreover, the goal of EMDR is NOT “alleviation of symptoms” (which is the goal of psychiatric drugs and other therapies such as CBT).

The goal of EMDR is cure. The goal of EMDR is elimination of people’s “ongoing emotional, mental and physical disturbances” (SUD = 0, VoC = 7 and clear body scan), which is cure.

The references to “three prongs” is confusing and should simply refer to the fact that EMDR deals with past, present and future.

References to “maladaptive encoding of and/or incomplete processing of traumatic or disturbing adverse life experiences” is confusing.

Instead, the Definition should state what is on our Web site:

What Is EMDR?

The brain normally processes experiences to adaptive resolution. Memories of processed experiences provide information about how to respond to similar events in the future.

When we experience a threatening event or loss with strong emotions, and we can’t overcome it or escape, our brain may be unable to completely process the experience.

Then we react to similar events as if the threat or loss is happening again.

EMDR enables the brain to process incompletely and unprocessed memories to adaptive resolution. EMDR also addresses disturbing reactions to similar current events and develops skills and abilities people need to respond effectively to similar events in the future.

What Is The Goal Of EMDR?

The goal of EMDR is cure.

First, EMDR eliminates ongoing emotional, mental and physical disturbances caused by incompletely and unprocessed memories.

Second, EMDR eliminates disturbances caused by current events that resemble the original event.

Third, EMDR develops skills and abilities people need to respond effectively to similar events in the future.

How Long Does It Take For EMDR To Achieve A Cure?

If a single recent event produced the memory that causes the ongoing disturbances, and people have resources they need to respond effectively to similar events in the future, treatment may be relatively brief.

Earlier and multiple events may produce a number of memories that cause ongoing disturbances, and people may not have resources they need to respond effectively, which complicates treatment and may take much longer.

Who Provides EMDR?

EMDR providers are licensed professionals who have undergone extensive training and consultation to insure they administer treatment that is consistent with EMDR procedures and are able to adapt the procedures to people’s individual needs.

What Does EMDR Involve?

EMDR consists of eight phases, beginning with history taking and extending to re-evaluation, and it includes procedures that address past causes of people’s ongoing disturbances, current situations that make them react as if the original threats or losses were happening again, and developing skills and abilities to enable them to respond effectively to similar events in the future. During processing, people attend to past memories, present triggers, and anticipated future events as the therapist guides them in sets of bilateral eye movements, tones or taps. As a result, people’s disturbances are eliminated, what they want to believe about themselves feels completely true and they are physically calm.

* Dictionary synonyms for “mental disease” include “mental illness” and “mental disorder.” The American Psychiatric Association and the Centers for Disease Control state that “mental disorders” are “mental illnesses.”

©EMDR Hawaii June 2017