EMDR therapy – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a psychotherapy that was originally developed to help people that were suffering from PTSD or other forms of deep, heavy trauma. Since the development of EMDR by psychologist Francine Shapiro, PH.D. in the late 1980’s, this approach to treat patients has expanded beyond the focus of just PTSD to include treatment for underlying trauma that may be at the root of addiction.
For many, trauma plays a key role in their addiction to drugs or alcohol. Negative life experience such as violence, abuse or serious emotional distress can all lead to an underlying desire or sense of “need” to self-medicate and feel better. As a result, many people that are struggling with deep trauma resort to substance abuse as a means of covering up or coping with memories of traumatic events or experiences.
Traumatic experiences, especially those that occur during childhood, increase the risk of adult substance abuse and negative lifestyle habits later in life, according to a study referred to as ACE and conducted by the CDC. Experiences such as any of the following could increase an individual’s risk for substance abuse or addiction requiring a later need for treatment in drug and alcohol rehab:
According to the EMDR Institute, “EMDR therapy facilitates the accessing and processing of traumatic memories and other adverse life experiences to bring these to an adaptive resolution.” During EMDR therapy, the client is actively processing traumatic experiences while also focusing on external stimulus. Most therapists will use lateral eye movement such as having the client follow a light or finger or other visual aid back and forth, laterally, without moving their head from side-to-side, as the external stimulus. Other forms of external stimulus include hand-tapping, music, or other audio stimulation techniques.
Anyone who has experienced the type of trauma that causes deeply rooted anxiety and emotional distress understands how it feels to be almost “frozen in time” when a trigger such as an image, sound, or smell instantly brings back the traumatic memories and it’s as if those feelings are happening for the very first time all over again. EMDR directly effects the way that the brain processes information allowing the individual to get past triggers without reliving the negative experience all over again each time.
EMDR has 8 phases. The amount of time spent in EMDR therapy for addiction will vary based on individual patient needs and history. Like other types of drug and alcohol addiction treatment, EMDR can be used in both an individual and a group setting. The full treatment process includes the following phases:
Clients that enter drug rehab center have often been previously diagnosed with PTSD or other serious forms of mental illness. These patients can immediately be evaluated and, through EMDR therapy, a treatment plan can be set up to improve their recovery success. Allowing the therapist to approach the client’s situation with a trauma-centered treatment protocol can appropriately address the root cause of the individual’s addiction.
Whether the individual faced trauma as a child or later in life, most all cases of addiction come with some form of traumatic experience underlying somewhere behind the scenes of his or her everyday life. EMDR offers the following benefits for those in drug and alcohol rehab:
While it may take several different types of treatment to overcome addiction, EMDR therapy can help an individual overcome the traumatic experiences that often hinder or block the healing process. When paired with cognitive behavioral therapy and other forms of treatment, clients can fully heal from the devastation of addiction and take back control of their lives.
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