What is EMDR Treatment?
Trauma can create addiction, and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is one of the most effective psychotherapies to treat addiction-causing traumas as well as commonly co-occurring disorders like anxiety and PTSD.
Whether cocaine addiction, meth addiction, or a benzo addiction—EMDR can help. Through EMDR therapy, former addicts heal from emotional distress and behavioral symptoms including the compulsion to use drugs and alcohol. In fact, studies show that EMDR treatment brings the benefits of years of traditional psychotherapy after a few sessions.
While some believe that it takes time, openness, and discussion to heal emotional wounds through therapy, EMDR takes a rapid approach to reach recovery by breaking down emotional barriers to progress, allowing the brain to reset itself.
If your emotional and mental life is consumed by a traumatic event that causes cravings for relief through drug and alcohol addiction, EMDR offers a reprieve by allowing healing to continue past the old traumatic block to sobriety.
Co-occurring PTSD and Addiction
Addictions often appear with conditions like PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Those with significant trauma and a PTSD diagnosis are many times more likely to also be diagnosed by professionals with a substance use disorder (SUD). Psychologists have discovered EMDR is effective for both disorders.
Trauma causes these individuals to self-medicate, seeking relief from disturbing memories, terrifying nightmares, panic attacks, and many more distressing symptoms. EMDR can treat PTSD and co-occurring disorders simultaneously by addressing the underlying trauma that causes symptoms and self-medicating behavior.
How is EMDR Treatment Different?
Because drug, alcohol, and even process disorders are becoming more problematic for society each year—psychologists and treatment centers are opening their eyes to new modes of treating addiction. EMDR is just one of the addiction treatments being used.
However, compared to medications, EMDR presents fewer dangers. And, EMDR cuts the time to positive results since traditional approaches like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can take years to show progress and change.
EMDR is quite unique both in its relative simplicity and in its speed. Without interfering chemically or demanding huge amounts of time and resources—EMDR proves useful.
EMDR vs. Medications
Several medications exist to treat addiction. Many of them, such as Suboxone, come with significant risks of dependency and abuse. At the same time, medications like methadone for opioid abuse or Campral for alcohol abuse are usually intended to treat the patient only to avoid dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
Frequently, those seeking to recover from their addiction find themselves back in its clutches because these medications create a new dependency and form of misguided self-medicating. EMDR carries no risk of addiction as a form of treatment and may be much safer as first-line addiction and trauma therapy.
EMDR vs. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy that is effective for some. Many treatment centers use CBT as a treatment for a number of health concerns that appear with substance abuse disorders like anxiety and depression, OCD and bipolar, psychosis and others. (EMDR also treats those conditions according to recent studies.)
CBT, however, was not specifically designed for such rapid recovery from trauma as EMDR. The process of CBT looks similar to therapy as people traditionally think about it, and for those with trauma, the idea of talking about the most distressing parts of their lives can make progress slow compared to EMDR.
How does EMDR Therapy Work?
EMDR combines different strategies for getting the most helpful result for clients. The unique techniques assist the client in turning their awareness to the past, the present, and then the future. This helps bring causes and insights to the surface.
When focus rests on the past, the client encounters a specific trauma in detail. They bring up the perspective, details, sensations, and the whole experience of the event in order to target it for trauma therapy and psychological healing.
Attending to the present, clients explore the situations and feelings that cause distress in their life currently, seeking to replace negative beliefs about themselves with positive ones that will lead to self-improvement.
Considering the future, the client and therapist identify what progress has been made through therapy. They take note of possible future events and the different responses the client can have (compared to how they’ve reacted in the past).
Example EMDR Treatment Session
The typical EMDR treatment session lasts anywhere from an hour to 90 minutes. You will be in a safe space with a trusted therapist trained in EMDR techniques. They will put you at ease about the EMDR therapy process and prepare you to encounter traumatic memories and unexpected insights.
The therapist will start by moving their fingers back and forth as you follow them with your eyes. During this eye movement exercise, you will be asked to recall a disturbing event, and this includes bringing out the emotions and sensations associated with it.
Over time, your EMDR therapist will guide you toward more pleasant thoughts, but EMDR takes a specific process designed to elicit memories, emotions, and sensations and then transform them emotionally. Trauma can then become a source of resilience.
EMDR Phase 1 and 2
In the first and second phases of EMDR treatment, the client and EMDR therapist identify targets and coping strategies. They begin by going over the client’s history while also determining their readiness to engage with the EMDR therapy process.
In the first phase, a distressing memory is found that can be addressed through trauma-centered EMDR. The trauma will also be related to certain current situations, such as binge drinking, that are related and which cause emotional upset. Past events that are also connected can be emphasized as well.
In some cases, EMDR treatment takes its start with difficult childhoods. These early years are addressed by initial EMDR processing sessions to help clients see their situation and experience more clearly.
In the second phase, therapists help clients learn how to cope with distress and build the skill of emotional tolerance. Included in this might be visualization techniques, mindfulness practices, and other stress-reduction strategies to be used during and after sessions.
These coping skills are useful for clients as they try to implement the insights and new beliefs they now hold between sessions. EMDR can be a rapid and intensive course of trauma therapy designed for incredible change in a short time. Phase two helps clients maintain emotional and behavioral balance along the way.
EMDR Phase 3 through 6
In the third through sixth stages, the targeted traumatic memory is methodically processed. For the client, this means holding an image related to the memory in their mind while seeing negative beliefs and emotions related to the trauma.
During the process, the client also finds a positive belief. Together, the client and therapist evaluate the positive belief compared to the negative emotions they experience. This belief becomes essential for the client’s overcoming of trauma.
Focusing on the memory, negative thoughts, and sensation of the experience, the client observes the back-and-forth movement of the EMDR therapist’s hand or device that makes taps or tones.
After desensitization through eye movement techniques, the client observes the spontaneous thoughts, feelings, and images that come to their minds in a blank state. The process is then repeated throughout the session in individual sets.
The aim of the repeated desensitization is to bring the client to a place in which they are no longer distressed by the memory. They are then asked to think of the positive belief they previously identified so they can use it in the future.
EMDR Phase 7 and 8
Phases seven and eight close the session. The client is asked to log the thoughts, feelings, and events that come up during the next week, documenting how they cope. They should see how they have become self-calming and self-soothing.
In the final phase, the therapist evaluates and examines what progress the client has made through the EMDR sessions. They’ll take a look at the historical events they addressed, the current experiences of the client, and the events in the future that the client has become prepared to withstand.
EMDR trains the client to become resilient against their own addiction-bound memories and traumas without resorting to negative coping. In short, EMDR can unwind the feelings that bind clients to addiction.
Why can EMDR treat addiction?
Using EMDR in the treatment of addiction means connecting substance use disorders with the presence of trauma. Because EMDR treats trauma, it’s believed that EMDR can reduce the compulsive use of drugs and alcohol.
When a therapist uses EMDR treatment for a client’s addictive behavior, it’s from the perspective that each individual has a root cause of addiction. This cause lies somewhere in their relationship to a meaningful, traumatic event.
EMDR can be a central therapy for addiction treatment for those willing to complete the sessions and encounter their most sensitive life experiences in order to finally heal. Many actually consider it a front-line, first-choice therapy for reducing relapse and encouraging a satisfying, sober life.
When to Seek EMDR Treatment?
EMDR treatment is suited for recovery from chemical and process addictions as well as dual diagnoses. While it was designed for the treatment of trauma, EMDR turns out to help with memories as well. Both can fuel the fire of addiction and take strategy to remove.
If your history (or the past of someone you love) is marked by a cycle of seemingly successful recovery and eventual relapse, it might signal an underlying, root cause of addiction that’s unaddressed. In many cases, this hidden cause is deep trauma or haunting memories.
But, even if you don’t have a distressing memory or a traumatic event in your past, many people benefit from EMDR therapy because of its ability to speed the recovery process and skip the requirements of other therapy forms like extensive questioning, analysis, and discussion.
Trauma is common in the field of addiction and in the experience of addicts. As a result, PTSD treatment and substance use recovery should often occur at the same time in order to ensure progress without significant setbacks.
EMDR resolves the problematic memories that push the client toward relapse and continuing down the path of addiction. Without the negative feeling toward the event or distress of the memory, clients are able to recover on their own terms, knowing that a hidden trigger will not pull them back down from sobriety.
If you have experienced relapse, you know that there can be feelings of hopelessness, shame, and guilt about your drug or alcohol use. EMDR offers another chance at sobriety by removing the distress that drugs and alcohol try to fight. See if EMDR treatment can help, and contact Indiana Center for Recovery.
Sometimes addiction doesn’t stem from a disturbing or traumatic event that causes painful distress. Sometimes it’s simply a memory of taking the drug. Even a person who otherwise had a healthy and well-adjusted life can become trapped in the cycle of addiction by becoming attached to this memory and its feelings.
Similar to its effects on trauma, EMDR can quiet the feelings associated with the memory and slow compulsive desires to seek and use drugs and alcohol. This is because EMDR works to rewire the brain from the inside without having to go over the story, memory, or trauma through traditional, talk therapy.
If you are struggling with flashbacks to a drug-taking experience or a memory of when you lost control, EMDR can help dampen its intensity and lift you from the trap of reliving the memory by re-enacting your addiction. If this feels like you, reach Indiana Center for Recovery to learn more.
Heal Trauma and Diffuse Addiction
You or someone you love may suffer from addiction. They may have failed once or many times to fully recover without relapse. If this is the case, EMDR therapy at Indiana Center for Recovery can help identify the underlying cause of the addiction and replace it with positive, life-affirming beliefs for a better future.
Let’s get you or a loved one help with a few simple steps.