Updated on October 26, 2022
EMDR Therapy for Addiction Treatment
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy is an integrated part of treatment for certain clients at FHE Health. EMDR therapy is used primarily for treating trauma as a part of addiction rehabilitation. It is a type of psychotherapy that allows people to experience relief from symptoms of emotional distress. EMDR helps make the overall therapeutic process faster and more effective. Treatment that may have once taken months can take weeks, expediting recovery.
Trauma can come from a variety of things. It is completely personal and depends on a person’s unique situation. When many people think of trauma they think of death or accidents. While these events are traumatic, it can also be because of situations such as divorce, losing a job, losing a place to live, or physical or sexual abuse.
EMDR has been proven to desensitize the effects of stress related to trauma and negative experience. In addiction recovery, trauma often plays a significant role in contributing to addiction. EMDR is just one treatment approach to confronting past trauma and learning to move past it. EMDR has shown that when the brain’s functioning system is blocked or damaged by a traumatic event, it can continue to get worse and actually grow over time. This is why trauma can have such a prominent effect on substance abuse. As the emotional wound continues to grow, so does addiction. EMDR works to help clients activate their brain’s natural healing process.
EMDR Eight-Phase Treatment
In EMDR therapy, a multitude of different approaches is taken in order to maximize positive results. The past, present, and future are broken down so that the client can identify a past cause of distress, a current cause of distress, and how to approach these kinds of situations in the future.
The eight-phase treatment of EMDR includes:
How EMDR Helps
EMDR is a unique way of treating trauma. Though not a traditional form of “talk therapy,” it does enhance psychotherapy. Someone participating in EMDR will be asked to access their traumatic memories in specific ways. Therapists provide instructions about eye movements and ways of recalling memories that help the individual to reprocess them. In essence, the memory moves from one area of the brain to another. The movement allows the person to cope with the distress that the memories trigger more easily and effectively.
The treatment repairs the mental injury that is associated with the trauma. EMDR doesn’t minimize the trauma, but it does allow the person to cope with it so that it results in less emotional pain. People who experience EMDR report that they find it easier to remember the traumatic event or events without reliving them or the intense distress they experienced in the past.
Statistics on EMDR Efficiency
The following statistics cited by EMDR Institute are from over 30 controlled outcome studies into the efficacy of EMDR at treating trauma:
- Up to 90 percent of single-trauma victims were free of PTSD after three 90-minute sessions.
- 77 percent of multiple trauma victims were free of PTSD after six 50-minute sessions.
- Likewise, 77 percent of combat veterans were free of PTSD in twelve sessions.
According to a study published by Kaiser Permanente Journal, more than 91 percent of study participants diagnosed with PTSD from a single traumatic incident no longer had the condition after EMDR treatment. People who undergo EMDR experience symptom relief more quickly than with conventional treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy, and they also report feeling less emotional distress during sessions as they are not required to be as descriptive in their memory recall as with some other forms of therapy traditionally used to treat PTSD.
What Can EMDR Treat and Why Is It Helpful?
EMDR is most widely associated with the treatment of PTSD, but in recent years, it has been used to effectively treat other conditions such as anxiety, panic attacks, grief, substance abuse and addiction, pain, and depression. The treatment is helpful in a number of ways that include reduced emotional distress triggered by memories and less “homework” for clients. (Conventional psychotherapies like cognitive behavioral therapy often require patients to do some “homework” after the session and before the next. This isn’t the case with EMDR.)
EMDR and Substance Abuse
EMDR is used to treat substance abuse and addiction as well as dual diagnosis. Painful memories and trauma are often triggers to abuse drugs or alcohol. Clients must learn to manage their triggers in order to prevent relapse. This is another way that EMDR can help. Less emotional distress reduces the power of that emotional trigger to drink or use drugs.
EMDR and Mental Health Issues
As noted, PTSD isn’t the only mental health condition that can benefit from EMDR. Therapists now rely on EMDR to help treat mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, anxiety and phobias, panic disorders, dissociative personality disorders, and depression. Though many of these conditions cannot be cured, the treatment does reduce symptoms, allowing for better illness management.
EMDR and Trauma
EMDR has increased in popularity as a treatment to alleviate the emotional suffering that people who’ve experienced violence, sexual assault, and other traumas often feel. Many people find EMDR less stressful than other forms of therapy, which can be beneficial for clients who find it uncomfortable to discuss their past trauma in detail.
EMDR helps to expedite the healing process in the aftrmath of trauma. What once may have taken months or years can be condensed and remain just as effective with the help of EMDR. It was once thought that extensive therapy was the only way to reverse trauma, but therapy via EMDR is an extremely effective way of helping individuals learn to cope with negative life experiences. EMDR therapy helps the natural healing process on a mental and emotional level. When mental and emotional wounds are healed, it becomes much more possible to heal from addiction and move forward with a healthy and sober lifestyle.