EMDR Therapy for Addiction Treatment

Authored by Jane Squires

Edited by Alexander Bentley

Reviewed by Dr Ruth Arenas

EMDR for Addiction Treatment

 

Whilst relatively new in terms of addiction treatment, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy has been used to treat individuals suffering from trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for a number of years. Experts of EMDR believe it lessens the effects of PTSD and allows individuals to live a more normal life.

 

Memories of traumatic events do not have the impact they once did and individuals can put those images and thoughts in the past. As a result, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is increasingly used the Worlds Best Rehabs to help individuals suffering from drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders, and depression.

 

What is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

 

EMDR is still a rather new treatment therapy having been developed in 1989 by psychologist Francine Shapiro11.E. Therapy, History of EMDR – EMDR Institute – EYE MOVEMENT DESENSITIZATION AND REPROCESSING THERAPY, EMDR Institute – EYE MOVEMENT DESENSITIZATION AND REPROCESSING THERAPY.; Retrieved September 28, 2022, from https://www.emdr.com/history-of-emdr/. She discovered her own negative thoughts and emotions decreased when her eyes moved from side to side. Shapiro later used the method on patients and found it to create positive responses. Today, there are over 20,000 EMDR practitioners.

 

EMDR falls into the realm of psychotherapy treatment. It was initially designed to relieve issues connected with traumatic memories. The treatment allows individuals who experience traumatic memories to find a resolution for those thoughts. Successful Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy treatments occur when patients are relieved of the stress and negative beliefs are extinguished.

 

Patients must relive traumatic experienced or trigger experiences during EMDR treatment. Episodes are kept brief while a therapist directs the individual’s eye movements. Experts believe Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is an effective treatment for trauma and PTSD as recounting distressing memories is often less upsetting when an individual’s attention is redirected. This prevents a patient from experiencing a strong psychological reaction to the memories being exposed.

 

Despite there being no dangerous side effects of EMDR, there are still plenty of medical professionals that do not see it as a worthwhile tool in the treatment of trauma and PTSD22.F. Shapiro, The Role of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy in Medicine: Addressing the Psychological and Physical Symptoms Stemming from Adverse Life Experiences – PMC, PubMed Central (PMC).; Retrieved September 28, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3951033/.

 

EMDR for Trauma and PTSD

 

It is believed people suffering from trauma and PTSD receive the most benefits from Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. The therapy treatment allows these sufferers to revisit their traumatic memories like never before. Individuals who are unwilling or struggle to talk about past events can benefit greatly as it can make them focus on issues they do not want to speak about.

 

EDMR has been found to treat both acute and chronic cases of PTSD. Thanks to the current evidence from research on Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, America’s Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense have both strongly recommended the use of EMDR to treat patients using the therapy treatment33.P. Ng, VA.gov | Veterans Affairs, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) for PTSD – PTSD: National Center for PTSD.; Retrieved September 28, 2022, from https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand_tx/emdr.asp.

 

EMDR Therapy for Anxiety

 

While there is evidence that EMDR works for individuals suffering from both trauma and PTSD, there have not been enough studies to clearly state it will work as effectively for people suffering from anxiety.

 

Experts on Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing are not 100% clear just how it helps people suffering from anxiety. One leading theory is EMDR syncs the two hemispheres of the brain. The other theory states EMDR creates a distraction from memories that create anxiety. Individuals who have undergone Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing for anxiety claim it soothes their bodies allowing them to relax. For now, more research must be done to decide how EMDR affects the brain.

 

How does EMDR work?

 

It is still unknown just how EMDR exactly works and that is why medical experts are split on the use of the therapy to treat patients. During treatment sessions, a therapist enables a patient to recall a painful memory. Patients will have their attentions diverted lessening the impact of the emotional memories that flood back to them.

 

EDMR therapy is usually completed in 12 sessions and the treatment can be broken down into eight stages.

 

  • History and treatment planning – A therapist reviews a patient’s history and decides on a practical treatment process. Individuals will talk about their trauma and identify possible traumatic memories to treat.
  • Preparation – The therapist will help patients learn different stress management techniques.
  • Assessment – The therapist will identify specific memories to target during treatment.
  • Treatment (stages four to seven) – Patient will begin EMDR therapy to treat targeted memories. During the sessions, patients will focus on a negative thought, memory, or image. At the same time, individuals will do specific eye movements. The stimulation can also include taps or other movements. After bilateral stimulation, the patient will let their mind go blank and make note of the thoughts and feelings experienced. Patients may refocus on the same memory or move to another one. Individuals should experience less distress over thoughts, memories, and images as these items fade away gradually.
  • Evaluation – Patients evaluate the treatment therapy process in the final stage.

 

Dangers of EMDR Therapy

 

EMDR allows patients to undergo treatment without using highly addictive medications. Prescription medication addiction is an issue that patients and therapists must consider, and EMDR offers a medicine free treatment option.

 

Individuals may need a number of EMDR sessions to treat trauma and PTSD. It is a treatment therapy that doesn’t work right overnight and patients must keep up with sessions to maximize their benefits. Sessions may trigger extremely emotionally memories. Focus is heightened by the therapy and early sessions can be stressful.

 

EMDR Side Effects

 

Individuals will experience heightened awareness after undergoing treatment. The heightened awareness doesn’t decrease when sessions end and it can take some time after treatment for an individual’s awareness to decrease. Individuals can also experience light headedness and vivid dreams that recall the trauma. EMDR can create stress in individuals although this feeling goes away later. Therapists can offer patients help coping with the side effects of EMDR treatment.

 

EMDR is being used to effectively treatment men and women suffering from PTSD and trauma. Although some medical experts disagree on its merits, it has so far helped thousands of individuals recover from their myriad of issues. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing has been used to treat other issues such as anxiety, drug and alcohol addiction, and eating disorders.

 

Previous: Wilderness Therapy for Addiction Treatment

Next: Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Addiction Treatment

  • 1
    1.E. Therapy, History of EMDR – EMDR Institute – EYE MOVEMENT DESENSITIZATION AND REPROCESSING THERAPY, EMDR Institute – EYE MOVEMENT DESENSITIZATION AND REPROCESSING THERAPY.; Retrieved September 28, 2022, from https://www.emdr.com/history-of-emdr/
  • 2
    2.F. Shapiro, The Role of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy in Medicine: Addressing the Psychological and Physical Symptoms Stemming from Adverse Life Experiences – PMC, PubMed Central (PMC).; Retrieved September 28, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3951033/
  • 3
    3.P. Ng, VA.gov | Veterans Affairs, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) for PTSD – PTSD: National Center for PTSD.; Retrieved September 28, 2022, from https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand_tx/emdr.asp
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