Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

EMDR for addiction is a therapy program that is designed to help people who suffer from addiction and other behavioral and mental disorders, primarily PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). It is an evidence-based treatment, which means it has been scientifically proven effective. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy used to help individuals who suffer from:

  • Anxiety
  • Addiction
  • Panic attacks
  • Personality disorders
  • Symptoms of past traumas (PTSD)

What is EMDR Therapy?

Inside An EMDR SessionEye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a low-cost, non-invasive form of psychotherapy that helps the person identify and address past experiences that have caused them overwhelming emotional turmoil or psychological distress. The aim is to help individuals heal from the symptoms and emotional issues that came from disturbing life experiences.

Further studies showed that by using EMDR, people can obtain the benefits of psychotherapy that had previously taken years to make a difference. It has been widely assumed that severe emotional pain takes a long time to heal. But the fact is that EMDR therapy has shown that the mind can heal from psychological trauma much the same way that your body recovers from physical trauma.

How Does It Work?

By using EMDR for addiction, a patient can reprocess traumatic experiences until they stop disrupting areas of their life. For example, if you get injured, your body acts to heal that wound. If something irritates the wound, it may fester and cause pain. After the irritant is removed, healing takes place. EMDR therapy shows that a similar sequence of events happens with mental wounds and processes.

The system in your brain that processes information naturally leans toward mental health. If that system is blocked or put out of balance by the jolt of a disturbing event, the emotional wound can fester and result in intense suffering. When that block is removed, the healing resumes, just like a physical wound. Clinicians can help patients activate their natural healing processes by using certain protocols and procedures. 

Treatment Process for EMDR Therapy

The 8 phases of therapy are:

  1. Patient history discovery and treatment planning (1 to 2 sessions)

The therapist takes a complete history of the client and creates a treatment plan. This will include discussions of the specific problem that caused them to seek treatment and the behaviors and symptoms that came from the problem.

  1. Preparation (1 to 4 sessions)

Building trust between therapist and patient is the primary goal. If the patient doesn’t trust the therapist, they won’t truthfully report their feelings. The therapist will help them learn ways to cope with emotional or psychological stress.

  1. Assessment (usually 3 sessions)

The client will be asked to access each specific event so it can be treated. The therapist will identify the memories that need to be addressed, along with the associated parts. This includes physical sensations that are affected when the client concentrates on the targeted memory.

The patient first selects a specific mental picture from the targeted event. Next, with the help of the therapist, the patient chooses a statement that expresses a negative self-belief connected to the target, even if they know it’s false. The patient then picks a positive self-statement that they would rather believe. This statement should include a sense of control such as “I can succeed” or “I am safe”. It should reflect what is realistic in the present.

  1. Desensitization

The desensitization phase looks at the patient’s disturbing emotions and perceptions. It deals with all of the person’s responses as the targeted event changes and its disturbing events are settled. During this phase, the patient has an opportunity to identify and resolve similar events. In this way, they may exceed their initial goals.

  1. Installation

In the installation phase, the goal is to increase the strength of the positive belief that the patient has chosen to replace their original negative self-belief. The aim is for the person to totally accept the truth of their positive self-statement.

  1. Body scan

After strengthening the positive belief and installing it as truth, the therapist will ask the patient to concentrate on the original target event. Focusing on the target event will reveal if there is any leftover tension.

  1. Closure

Closure ensures that the patient leaves each session feeling better than when they came in. They are briefed on what to expect between sessions in case new material emerges and which calming methods can be used. 

  1. Reevaluation

Reevaluation actually opens every new session. This guides the therapist through the treatment plan. The purpose is to evaluate the success of the treatment over time. The patient and therapist work together to determine the progress. Although the patient will feel relief early in the treatment, it is important to complete all 8 phases.

What is the Goal of EMDR for Addiction?

EMDR TherapyThe ultimate goal of EMDR therapy is to help the patient reprocess harmful memories by looking at them in a more proactive way. For example, if you were assaulted as a child, you may come to believe that you are to blame for what happened. A treatment specialist uses EMDR therapy to help you reprocess what happened so that you will see the truth and regain a sense of security.

During this process, the therapist helps the patient reprocess the memories to develop a peaceful outcome. The therapist helps the patient discover insights that contrast how they have reacted to trauma throughout their life. Patients regain a sense of confidence, inner peace, and resolve that they might never have felt in the past. Experts term this process “adaptive information processing”. This process has been found to be extremely effective in helping people who suffer from PTSD and other trauma-related conditions.

Inside An EMDR Session

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is more interactive than some traditional talk therapy approaches. During a session, the therapist leads the client through a series of lateral (sideways) eye motions while the client focuses on various aspects of the painful memory. The left to right eye movements may be caused by a handheld device or bilateral (two-sided) sound using headphones.

During the session, the client will come face-to-face with their most painful memories. With this occurrence, the therapist helps them to recognize important truths about their present reality. For example, if the patient was abandoned by a spouse or parent, then they learn that they are still loveable. If they were injured in a car accident, they may learn that it is safe to drive again. The purpose is to help patients confront their worst feelings so that they can be resolved and the client can move on.

What are the Benefits of EMDR?

There are many benefits of EMDR therapy including:

  • Internal conflicts from past trauma can finally be resolved.
  • EMDR allows a person to feel empowerment and more control of their life.
  • This type of therapy can relieve physical problems sometimes associated with stress or trauma.
  • The patient begins to understand the connection between their trauma and their behavior.
  • It is an effective way to deal with co-occurring disorders like PTSD and substance use disorder (SUD). This is known as a dual diagnosis.

One of the only drawbacks to EMDR is that the person needs to face extremely painful emotions and memories. This is something that many people are hesitant to do at first. But it is almost impossible to heal if the fears aren’t faced so that they can be overcome.

Long-Term Benefits of EMDR Therapy for Addiction

EMDR Therapy for AddictionSeveral studies have discovered that the effects of EMDR therapy can be maintained in the long term. One of the studies evaluated people several months after they were given “standard care” treatment or EMDR treatment for PTSD. Throughout their treatment and immediately afterward, they noticed that EMDR was markedly more effective at reducing the symptoms.

Later, in subsequent follow-ups at three and six months, they found that study participants maintained these benefits long after their treatment ended. Generally, the study found that EMDR gave people a longer-lasting reduction in symptoms than standard care.

In regard to the treatment of depression, an inpatient study showed that EMDR showed promise in treating this disorder. The study found that 68% of the people in the EMDR group showed full remission following treatment and also showed a noteworthy decline in depressive symptoms in total.

When people with PTSD or other trauma have a co-occurring addiction to alcohol or other drugs, EMDR can be used to treat the trauma that contributes to the substance abuse. Addiction specialists will also use behavioral therapies and medication where appropriate to help people in recovery.

It is believed that EMDR could be used to resolve problematic memories that contribute to substance abuse. It may also help to reduce the effects of relapse triggers.

Are There Any Side Effects?

EMDR therapy is considered safe and has fewer side effects than prescription medications. However, there are a few things to consider:

  • It usually takes several sessions to treat trauma.
  • Heightened awareness of thinking. This raised awareness doesn’t end when the session does and can cause light-headedness, and vivid, realistic dreams.

Finally, the initial phase of therapy may be triggering to people who are dealing with traumatic events. Because of the heightened focus, it may be stressful emotionally especially at the beginning. Even though this therapy is likely to be effective in the long term, it may be emotional during the treatment sessions. It is important for a patient to explain this to the therapist when the treatment begins so they can be prepared for these symptoms.

Why Is This Important?

This is important because more than half of people who have a serious mental illness also have a substance use or abuse disorder. And individuals with a dual diagnosis need both disorders to be treated at the same time. The interactions between the two disorders can worsen the effects of both. And substance abuse complicates almost every aspect of treating a person with a mental illness. 

The combination of mental illness and SUD is so common that many clinicians now expect to find it. Studies have shown that 50% of people with mental illness also have substance abuse problems. Likewise, more than half the people with a substance abuse diagnosis also have a diagnosable mental illness.

Addiction and Trauma

Traumatic life experiences such as physical and sexual abuse and neglect occur at high rates and are considered major problems in the United States. Early childhood trauma is well known to significantly increase the risk for many psychiatric disorders in adulthood. Particularly, the link between trauma exposure and substance abuse has been well established. In surveys of adolescents who were receiving treatment for SUD, more than 70% had a history of trauma exposure.

Harmony Place is Here to Help You

Are you or someone close to you suffering from a substance use disorder? If the answer is yes, then do you know if there is trauma involved in your addiction? There might be and you don’t even know it because you have been trying to erase those memories with drugs or alcohol.

Harmony Place is “a comfortable place to do difficult work”. We know that it can be difficult to come to terms with the pain of your past. It’s challenging to face the traumatic experiences you’ve had to deal with in your life. That’s precisely why we offer to walk with you as you work through these emotions and challenges. Our mission is to stand beside you throughout your recovery. From the very beginning of your journey until you complete your treatment program, we will be here for you.

There is no time to wait; contact us now. We have comprehensive programs and treatment teams to assist you all the way through. At Harmony Place, we offer a peaceful and healing environment to our patients. Your healing is our priority. Allow us to help you find the peace you need and deserve!