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Treating Addiction With EMDR

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapeutic approach developed specifically to assist people in healing from the emotional distress of disturbing life events. Research suggests people can experience the benefits in a relatively short time frame.

As a result, it is recognized as a treatment for trauma globally, with an increasing number of therapists recognizing its merits. It has also become recognized as an appropriate course of treatment for addiction.

We at Safe & Sound Treatment in Costa Mesa believe in and have seen the effectiveness of EMDR therapy, and part of our approach in helping the Orange County area.

Research Supporting EMDR

Research has shown that after three sessions of sixty to ninety minutes, between 84% and 90% of single trauma victims have no PTSD. Another study found after 12 sessions, 77% of combat victims were free of PTSD.

PTSD Recovery After Treatments
Three Sessions
Twelve Sessions

How Does EMDR Work?

It is believed EMDR therapy works by using bilateral stimulation to bypass the area of the brain that has become stuck because of the trauma. Traumatic or triggering events are worked through in bite-sized pieces while the therapist directs your eye movements.

The therapy uses the Rapid Eye Movements associated with sleep function to help the person process their memories and close them, ultimately transforming them into a source of personal empowerment. The patient will recall the traumatic event while tracking the therapist’s finger movements.

At first, the patient will begin to feel less overpowered by the specific recollection and begin to make spontaneous insights into the memory. This may, in turn, result in the person recalling other unpleasant memories and incidents.

There are eight phases to EMDR that the therapist works through with the patient.

Phase 1: History-Taking and Treatment Planning

The first phase of EMDR involves the therapist working with the patient to obtain a detailed history, including their childhood and adult life background and details.

Then the individual is assessed regarding their readiness for treatment.

Finally, a treatment plan is developed to address traumas and emotionally distressing events that may be the cause of the residual trauma-related issues.

Phase 2: Preparation

In preparation for the therapy, the patient is taught several ways of handling emotional distress. It may include stress reduction techniques that the patient can call on between therapy sessions.

From a therapist’s viewpoint, this phase is to develop trust between themselves and the patient. EMDR therapy is more likely to work when the patient is relaxed during the session. Hence, the EMDR clinician and the patient should build a relationship and sense of trust in preparation.

Phase 3-6

These phases are described as assessment, desensitization, installation, and body scan.

The patient will first identify a traumatic or distressing memory or event that is to be the session’s target. Next, this memory or event will be targeted using EMDR techniques which involve the client identifying four things:

Once the bilateral stimulation begins, the patient is asked to focus on the negative belief and the body sessions. The length of the bilateral stimulation can vary from person to person and is usually discussed between the therapist and the patient before therapy begins. During the stimulus, the patient is encouraged to let their minds go blank and focus on processing basic feelings and in-the-moment experiences.

When the stimulation set concludes, the therapist will ask the patient to again clear their mind and pay notice to the spontaneous sensations and thoughts.

The directed sets of stimulation occur multiple times during the therapy session.

Occasionally a patient may become overly stimulated, distressed, or have difficulty processing the event. In these instances, the therapist will use the protocols to bring the patient through the heightened emotions and ground them.

Throughout EMDR therapy, the therapist and the patient will work through a range of negative experiences and recollections.

Phase 7: Closure

After each session, the patient will be instructed to maintain a log over the coming week documenting any thoughts or feelings related to the specific event that was worked upon that may occur over the coming week.

Phase 8: Evaluation

When they attend the therapist the next week, the session begins in this phase. The evaluation phase involves the therapist and the patient examining and evaluating the progress made in respect of the individual traumas. The therapy is successful when the patient can establish physiological equilibrium regarding the event. The burden of stress related to the event is relieved, and the negative beliefs about themself have been reformulated into positive beliefs.

EMDR and Addiction

EMDR can be especially useful in addiction treatment programs — as trauma is a common risk factor in substance use disorders.

It is believed that addressing underlying causes of addiction, such as trauma, is a crucial element in a proper addiction treatment program. Studies related to EMDR interventions for addiction have shown it to have up to a 68% remission rate — meaning symptoms of substance use disorders (including relapse) completely subsided.

Thinking about an addiction treatment program that includes EMDR as a therapeutic modality? Don’t hesitate to give Safe & Sound Treatment’s Costa Mesa Drug & Alcohol Rehab Center a call.