Is EMDR Therapy Right for You?

Addiction treatment can be as varied as the individuals who receive it. After all, what works for one person may not help another. That’s why it’s important to explore a variety of treatment options for drug and alcohol addiction. One such treatment is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.

Read on to learn more about EMDR therapy as a holistic treatment for substance abuse, and discover whether it might be right for you.

What Is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR is a form of psychotherapy used to treat patients with traumatic stress — particularly those suffering from PTSD. The basic premise of EMDR therapy is that under certain conditions, eye movements can reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts.

Specifically, there is a relationship between the rhythm of eye movements (similar to when you enter REM sleep) and the association of traumatic memories. When an EMDR therapist has you recall those memories while also stimulating your vision, they can help you reprocess the way the memories are stored in your brain and reduce the intensity of the feelings associated with the trauma.

How Can EMDR Therapy Treat Substance Abuse?

Addiction doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Typically, addiction is caused by a variety of factors, and it often happens alongside co-occurring disorders like depression, bipolar, or PTSD. As such, trauma is a common reality for many people dealing with drug and alcohol addiction.

At a dual diagnosis rehab, you will see that overcoming addiction goes deeper than just quitting drugs and alcohol. You need to address the issues that cause you to reach for those substances in the first place. Holistic treatments like EMDR therapy can help you do just that.

What to Expect During EMDR Therapy

During EMDR, your therapist will ask you to reflect on particular aspects of past traumatic experiences. While doing this, you will follow the hand motions of the therapist with your eyes. The therapist will typically use their fingers, a pen, or specially designed equipment for EMDR therapy. This will result in rapid eye movements as you fix your vision on the moving object. There is no medication involved in EMDR therapy; this holistic treatment is completely based on visual stimulation.

As with any therapy, the process can be painful because it involves bringing up traumatic memories. But EMDR therapists are trained to walk you through the process safely. A typical EMDR therapy session lasts from 60 to 90 minutes, and therapy usually involves a total of 6 to 12 sessions.

The Eight Phases of EMDR

EMDR therapy uses a structured, eight-phase approach:

  1. History taking and treatment planning: Define the “targets” to be addressed in therapy, including traumatic events or other problems.
  2. Preparation: Learn specific techniques to help you deal with the effects of trauma, such as deep breathing, relaxation, and other stress relievers.
  3. Assessment: Identify an event to reprocess, including images, beliefs, feelings, and sensations.
  4. Desensitization: Begin eye movement technique while thinking about the event and allowing new thoughts to emerge.
  5. Installation: Strengthen a positive belief you want to associate with the event until it feels completely true.
  6. Body scan: Think of the event as well as the positive belief while scanning the body from head to toe. Process any lingering disturbance from the body.
  7. Closure: Return to a state of calm. Reprocessing is complete when you feel neutral about the event, the positive belief feels completely true, and your body is free from disturbance.
  8. Reevaluation: Ensure that the goals of treatment have been reached and that the techniques for coping are working well.

As you go through rehab, you may find that trauma presents a roadblock to your recovery. But past trauma should not define your future success. With EMDR therapy as part of your addiction treatment plan, you can gain the tools you need to live a healthy, satisfying life.

Looking to learn more about EMDR therapy? Contact our trained admissions counselors at (866) 349-1770 to discover a variety of holistic treatment options at Beachside Rehab and find what’s right for you.