EMDR was originally developed to help individuals whose lives had been impacted by posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other effects of trauma. In the decades since this approach was introduced, it has also been effectively incorporated into treatment for other mental and behavioral health concerns, such as EMDR for addiction.
How Does EMDR Therapy Work?
EMDR is short for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. As its name suggests, this type of therapy incorporates rapid bilateral (side-to-side) eye movements to help alleviate psychological distress that is associated with certain traumatic memories.
EMDR therapy was developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s. The first controlled study on the effectiveness of this approach was published in 1989, and the first sessions to train other providers were held in 1990.
In its modern form, EMDR is an eight-phase approach:
- History and treatment planning – This phase involves a discussion of the patient’s symptoms, so the therapist can determine their suitability for EMDR and identify areas to focus on during later phases.
- Preparation – During this phase, the therapist explains the EMDR process to the patient and helps them develop appropriate expectations. This is an important time for establishing a productive alliance between the therapist and the patient.
- Assessment – This is when the therapist and patient identify a specific memory to target. This is also the time for the patient to describe the negative emotions and images that result when they recall this memory.
- Desensitization – The fourth phase involves the patient’s use of bilateral eye movements or a similar activity while recalling the traumatic memory. This will be repeated until the patient no longer experiences the distress that they identified during the assessment phase.
- Installation – During the installation phase, the patient begins to associate a positive emotion with the traumatic memory.
- Body scan – Once the positive emotion has been installed, the patient participates in a body scan to ensure that they are no longer experiencing muscle tension or other painful physical effects when they recall the traumatic memory.
- Closure – Once the therapist and patient have reached the fourth phase, every session will end with a closure activity. This ensures that the patient is not experiencing overwhelming distress due to the traumatic memory, as it can take several sessions before the desensitization and installation are complete.
- Reevaluation – After the therapist and patient reach the desensitization phase, all future sessions will begin with a reevaluation exercise to identify the optimal area to focus on during the new session.
How Does EMDR Treat Addiction?
The eight phases of EMDR have proved to be an effective path for overcoming negative emotions that are linked with particularly distressing memories. But how can these steps benefit someone who is attempting to end their compulsive use of alcohol or another drug?
Many people who develop substance use disorders began abusing alcohol or other drugs as a means of coping with or blocking traumatic memories. Using EMDR for addiction treatment can eliminate the need for this misguided form of self-medication. When a person’s memories are no longer a source of extreme emotional distress, they won’t need substances to elevate their mood or temporarily numb themselves.
EMDR for addiction doesn’t always have to focus on painful memories. For example, this approach can also help people develop healthier ways of responding to memories of pleasurable experiences they had while they were abusing substances. This can prevent these memories from undermining their recovery and pushing them back into active drug abuse.
The potential value of EMDR for addiction underscores the importance of taking a comprehensive, personalized approach to help people end their compulsive substance abuse. EMDR may not be right for every person who receives treatment for addiction – but for some patients, it may be the key to successful, long-term recovery.
Where to Find the Best EMDR Therapy for Treating Addiction?
The effectiveness of EMDR can be significantly influenced by the skill and experience of the therapist who is providing your care. In the case of EMDR for addiction, it is also essential to ensure that this service is incorporated into a comprehensive plan that addresses the full scope of your needs.
These are two of the many reasons why it is so important to evaluate your options and research providers in your area. When you find a provider that seems to be a good fit, don’t be afraid to ask questions about their programs and services, the qualifications of the professionals who will be providing your care, and how they will determine which types of care will be best for you.
For example, at Sanctuary Treatment Center, EMDR is one of several evidence-based, research-supported therapies that we can select from when we are developing a patient’s customized treatment plan. Before you begin to receive care at our center, you will complete a thorough assessment. The information that we gather during this assessment will help us to select the services that are most appropriate for you.
Your assessment will also help us determine which level or levels of care are right for you. Many people who heal at our center begin in our residential program, then step down to our partial hospitalization program (PHP) and intensive outpatient program (IOP) for continued support.
As with the services that we include in your treatment plan, all level-of-care decisions will reflect our thorough review of your history, needs, goals, and preferences. We understand that addiction affects different people in different ways, and we are committed to providing you with a truly personalized experience while you are in our care.
Contact Us About EMDR for Addiction
Sanctuary Treatment Center offers a dynamic array of customizable services, including EMDR for addiction, to help people achieve successful, long-term recovery.
To learn more about EMDR for addiction or any other aspect of care at our treatment center in Los Angeles, California, please visit our Contact Us page or call us today. We look forward to answering all your questions and helping you determine if Sanctuary Treatment Center is the ideal place for you or your loved one.