EMDR Therapy

What is EMDR Therapy for Addiction Treatment?

Top studies, including a 2014 study by Béatrice Perez-Dandieu, a clinical psychiatrist and EMDR expert, show EMDR Therapy as a successful treatment option for addiction. Research has also shown it is extremely effective for addiction with co-occurring disorders, specifically PTSD. But what is EMDR Therapy and how does it work?

What is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. This type of therapy was originally used as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but has recently been found to be extremely effective in addiction treatment.

The purpose of EMDR therapy is to help Individuals struggling with addiction resolve past life experiences they perceived to be traumatic or disturbing. This includes violence, neglect, abandonment, death or other events that could have been disturbing in any way. Through EMDR therapy, they are able to reprocess these events. This changed the way they thought of the events as well as the effects (flashbacks, anxiety, depression) connected to it.

How EMDR Therapy Was Developed

EMDR was first discovered by psychologists in the 1980’s when the doctors noticed that eye movement had an effect on certain conditions. With eye movement, physicians were able to reduce the intensity of particular thoughts, specifically those that were disturbing. In 1989, Dr. Francine Shapiro conducted a study on the effects of this type of therapy in trauma victims. She reported her findings in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, showing the positive outcomes she determined in the research.

Since this initial research, EMDR therapy has been changed to a set of unique, yet standardized protocols. The protocols help produce more positive outcomes than in the past. Many researchers and therapists have contributed to the development of this type of therapy.

How EMDR Therapy Works

To treat addiction and a co-occurring disorder correctly, therapists using EMDR therapy first create an individualized treatment plan based on your strengths, needs, abilities and preferences. They call this SNAP.

The therapy uses 8 phases of treatment, which identify different traumatic experiences in your life.

  1. Take history and plan treatment.
  2. Preparation- During this phase, the therapist will introduce you to some techniques you can use to help with anxiety, flashbacks and other emotional disturbances that may occur.
  3. Assessment- Here you choose a specific scene from the traumatic event and the words that best identify the way you feel about the event.
  4.  Desensitization- The therapist leads you in different sets of eye movement that will shift and change the way you feel about the target event.
  5.  Installation- During this phase you work on feeling in control of your own circumstances. You should be experiencing more strength, and the traumatic events of the past shouldn’t have ownership of you anymore.
  6. Body Scan- The therapist asks you about the traumatic event during a full body scan. This helps him see where any residual tension might be.
  7. Closure- At this point you should be leaving each session feeling better than you did before. You now feel in control, not only during the EMDR therapy but also about the way you feel about the past traumatic event.
  8. Reevaluation- This occurs at the opening of every session you have. The therapist reviews the positive results from previous phases and makes sure you continue to maintain positive results.

Benefits of EMDR Therapy

Many researchers and clients have reported several benefits from experiencing EMDR therapy, including:

  • Healing from emotional pain
  • Reduced effects of trauma, such as anxiety, flashbacks and depression
  • Treatment of different disorders and issues, including marital conflict, sexual dysfunction, migraine headaches, eating disorders, OCD, PTSD, panic disorder, substance abuse and addiction
  • Gaining valuable insights about past trauma (a rape victim, for instance, may discover that she was not at fault for the experience)
  • Improved future outlook
  • Increased chance of long-term sobriety

The right type of treatment can greatly affect your addiction treatment. Learn more about EMDR therapy as well as other types of therapy offered by Gracious Care Recovery Solutions.