Addiction Recovery - Dual Diagnosis

What Is EMDR and How Can It Help with Recovery?

The effects of untreated & unresolved trauma are harmful. EMDR is an evidence-based treatment which can help minimize trauma’s lasting effects.

What Is EMDR and How Can It Help with Recovery?

Table of Contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

June 9, 2022

The Edge Treatment Center

While there are many different forms of treatment for drug and alcohol addiction recovery, it all depends on the individual and their personal needs.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy treatment that has been highly proven to help clients who suffer from:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Anxiety

  • Substance use disorders (SUDs)

  • Depression

How Was EMDR Developed?

In the late 1980s, American psychologist Francine Shapiro explored a connection she noticed between rapid eye movement (REM) and the decrease in negative emotions when someone is describing a stressful event.

When Shapiro first discovered the benefits of the EMDR approach to therapy, it was considered a “pseudoscience,” and many people believed it was a hoax. However, this became Shapiro's life-long study, and through the years, she has conducted over 30 positive clinical trials. 

Examples of what EMDR can treat include: 

  • Anxiety and phobias 

  • Chronic illness 

  • Depression 

  • Eating disorders 

  • Substance use disorders 

  • Grief 

  • Performance anxiety 

  • Pain 

  • Insomnia 

How Does EMDR Work? 

EMDR involves the use of light, sounds, and touch, also known as bilateral stimulation. Throughout therapy, the client and therapist need to agree that EMDR therapy is the right fit for their recovery.

Once they decide to try EMDR therapy, the client then has to work through the eight phases of EMDR therapy. 

The eight phases of EMDR are as follows: 

  • History and treatment: During this first step, the client's history will be discussed, and then a treatment plan based on the trauma that needs to be reprocessed will be developed. 

  • Preparation: The therapist will begin to describe the EMDR therapy process to the client and set any expectations. Next, they will explore any questions or concerns the client might have about the therapy and provide the client with coping mechanisms to help them handle any emotions that might surface during therapy. 

  • Assessment: The therapist will identify the traumatic event needing to be reprocessed. This also includes images, beliefs, feelings, and sensations. 

  • Desensitization: This is the step when eye movement and the “taps” begin, all while the client thinks about the specific traumatic event.  

  • Installation: The therapist will then help strengthen a positive belief that the client chose to replace those associated with the initial traumatic event. 

  • Body scan: During this time, the client is asked to think about both the traumatic event and the positive one. While the client is doing this, the therapist will conduct a full-body scan to process any lingering disturbances. 

  • Closure: This step involves bringing the client to a state of calm, whether or not the reprocessing is finished. 

  • Reevaluation: The therapist and patient discuss, in later sessions, the traumatic event to make sure stress levels are still low. Next, future treatment options are discussed. 

EMDR is known to help with the process of healing your mind after a severely traumatic event. Just as the body can repair itself after an injury, the mind can as well. This specific type of therapy is thought to help speed up the positive effects of traditional therapy as well, which is why it is beneficial to be used with other modalities. 

EMDR Therapy and Recovery

Unfortunately, addiction and trauma often go hand in hand. Substances can be used to help cope with severely traumatic incidents that have happened in someone's life. Once this starts to affect daily life in a negative way, that is when the substance use becomes an addiction.

However, this is where EMDR therapy can help. For drug addiction recovery, this therapy can be used to desensitize and reprocess negative events and then transform the emotions that also come with them. 

EMDR therapy is a trauma-informed approach to therapy, which allows each individual's case to be examined at the root cause and related environmental factors. Looking at the root cause is extremely important because this is what can help someone overcome their addiction.

EMDR Therapy and the Brain 

EMDR therapy slows down the amygdala while synchronizing the brain waves, which helps to process the traumatic event in the brain. Throughout this process, the memories are reprocessed into less traumatic events. The eye movement discussed above is the same movement that your body does naturally while you're sleeping (during REM sleep). 

What Comes After EMDR Therapy? 

After the process of EMDR therapy, clients start to feel relief from their traumatic experiences, along with less stress and an overall sense of relief. The memory of the traumatic event will most likely still pop up from time to time, but it will not feel as intense as before the therapy.

This is because of the reprocessing of the memory that took place. EMDR therapy helps clients leave the trauma in the past so that it is not debilitating if they remember it again. 

For individuals who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction, EMDR therapy is only one part of a holistic addiction treatment plan. In order to maintain a successful recovery, there are other factors that should be utilized, such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation and healthy lifestyle changes.

The Edge Treatment Center Proudly Uses EMDR Therapy to Treat Addiction & Dual Diagnosis

At The Edge Treatment Center, we prioritize the importance of working together and creating a healthy, sustainable life through professional treatment, community, and an encouraging environment.

Trying new things can always be scary, especially when it comes to our health or therapy. We aim to make the process of EMDR therapy as smooth as possible. Our trained clinicians are experts in EMDR to ensure that this therapy is beneficial in overcoming past traumatic events. We make sure you feel connected with the staff and people going through similar situations as you.

If you or a loved one is looking for trauma-informed help, contact The Edge Treatment Center today.

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