Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy in Addiction Treatment

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, also known as EMDR Therapy, is often used in the treatment and management of substance abuse and addiction. It has been found to be effective for this purpose after use in mental health care.

About Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy

Also known as EMDR, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy was developed by Francine Shapiro in 1989. It is now considered to be effective in treating addiction. Today, it is so common that hundreds of thousands of clinicians use it to manage substance abuse and addiction. They also use for other mental health disorders, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety - among many others. For more than 30 years now, millions of patients have received this form of treatment for various reasons and the numbers continue climbing.

Research studies have shown that it is effective at treating post-traumatic stress disorder. As a result, addiction recovery researchers and experts feel that it can also prove to be quite as effective at treating addiction.

It involves the use of rapid eye movements and past memory recall in a cycle of 8 phases. These are performed over several sessions that take place for a couple of weeks. In this way, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy is an integrative form of therapy that makes it different from other traditional talk therapies.

Typically, the psychotherapy process involves going back to the past and talking about painful memories and past experiences. As a client, you will be required to recall these events through your conversations with a therapist. You will also work with the therapist or the counselor to come up with solutions that you can use to perceive these situations with the goal of alleviating the suffering, trauma, and anxiety that your brain has come to associate with them.

Since this form of therapy involves a great deal of talking, it can take a while. For this reason, it could be many months of even years before you start observing any real tangible progress in your recovery.

Although EMDR is classified as a form of psychotherapy, it is different. It is designed to calm the distress that occurs when you recall painful memories. In many cases, the treatment sessions take about 90 minutes.

The primary goal of this form of therapy would be to produce effective and rapid change even as you maintain equilibrium between as well as during the treatment sessions. For this reason, EMDR can be powerful at resolving trauma. This is in the sense that it will work on your brain in profound ways.

In the same way, it can reformulate your negative beliefs by stimulating the brain. It is like any other type of psychotherapy in the sense that it will require you to delve into the past and grapple with painful memories because you will have to recall the events that have been bothering you.

However, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is a bit different in the sense that it will use rapid eye movement exercises, which is not the same case with the other types of therapy.

How It Works

In any typical EMDR session, the counselor or therapist will ask you to focus on an external stimulus - such as their finger. They could place the stimulus some inches away from your eyes.

When you focus on the given object, they will move it back and forth rapidly with the goal of creating a bilateral or side-to-side eye movement. This action will have the effect of stimulating the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

In the course of this rapid eye movement, you will get the opportunity to complete a mental process as guided by the therapist. In the process, you will also recall the traumatic events that occurred in the past or perform any other required intentional exercise.

For instance, you may have to focus on a memory that troubles you as well as on the belief that you have to associate with that particular memory. You will also be required to replace this belief with another one that is new and empowering.

The purpose of this exercise would be to retrain your brain so that it can effective process trauma in a different way. By connecting the right and left sides of your brain, you can make it become unstuck with regards to how it is connected to paralyzing events. Additionally, your brain will become desensitized to the events and learn how to process them in different ways.

In instances where your brain could only identify with pain and trauma in the past, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy can ensure that it can sooth itself using new perspectives.

EMDR in Addiction Treatment

Many addiction treatment and rehabilitation programs are now incorporating eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy sessions into their recovery plans for clients. Although most of them only offer CBT - cognitive behavioral therapy - as the first line of treatment, an increasing number are now adding EMDR into their cocktail of therapy options.

One of the reasons that addiction treatment experts now believe that EMDR therapy is effective at managing substance abuse and dependency is because of the role that trauma plays in issues involving drugs and alcohol. Research studies have shown that this form of therapy is effective at treating trauma. As a result, addiction recovery professionals have started using it to help their clients achieve a state of sobriety and abstinence from the substances that they were abusing.

Research studies report that some of the people who struggle with addiction have also been trauma victims in the past. This goes to show that trauma and substance abuse are inherently connected. For instance, if you experienced trauma in the past, you might turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate the emotions that are caused by your memories of the events that occurred.

Getting Help

If your substance abuse and addiction is linked to a traumatic event - or the negative emotions that come about as a result of this event - you might want to consider enrolling in an addiction treatment program that uses eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy as a recovery option.

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