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Trauma and Addiction

It’s important to remember that recovery is a journey that’s unique and individual to each person. Depending largely on the symptoms and needs of a patient, recovery can entail a wide range of different treatments and therapeutic techniques, one of which could be EMDR therapy.

Increasingly associated with substance abuse and addiction, EMDR therapy has become a popular tool for helping individuals overcome their past traumas by alleviating the emotional hold that their experiences have over them. But how, exactly, is EMDR therapy beneficial for the treatment of addiction?

There are a wide variety of different psychotherapeutic techniques in use today, and each of them has been developed to address certain symptoms or to alleviate certain cognitive effects. Typically, when we think about psychotherapy, most of us imagine a setting in which a patient lies on a couch, talking about feelings and past experiences while a therapist sits nearby documenting. While this form of therapy — one-on-one counseling — is effective in many scenarios and often serves as the foundation of most therapeutic treatment programs, it’s not the only form of psychotherapy that’s available and, in fact, isn’t always the most effective form of psychotherapy for a patient’s needs.

Among the many other psychotherapeutic techniques that exist, one of the most well-known types is called EMDR therapy, which stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. Whereas most forms of psychotherapy are facilitated by talking — either the patient talking to the therapist or the therapist talking to the patient — EMDR therapy is much more about behavior. In fact, the basis of EMDR therapy is that a person’s cognitions can be augmented by directed behavior.

From a practical standpoint, EMDR therapy involves a therapist stimulating a patient in some way while instructing the patient to move his or her eyes in very specific, decisive ways. For instance, a therapist who’s implementing EMDR therapy might show a patient photos that relate to a past traumatic experience; then, while the patient is looking at the photos, the therapist asks that the patient follow the movement of the therapist’s finger with the patient’s eyes.

Developed in the 1990s by Francine Shapiro, the technique behind EMDR therapy has proven to be somewhat controversial. Those who are skeptical of EMDR therapy are hesitant to attribute any lasting change or improvement in mental or emotional symptoms to the technique, believing that any observed benefits are either psychosomatic or temporary. However, numerous studies have investigated the efficacy of EMDR therapy and found that in some patients, the benefits are pronounced and consistent. In particular, studies have shown that people who have experienced trauma — e.g. victims of rape or other forms of physical or even emotional abuse — show marked improvement in post-traumatic stress and other lingering adverse emotions. Since many people who suffer from substance abuse problems turned to alcohol or drugs as a means of coping with past trauma, EMDR therapy has become increasingly associated with substance abuse treatment.

As it exists today, EMDR therapy is used to alleviate the negative emotional and cognitive effects that are associated with memories or in-person stimuli. It’s based on the notion that involuntary cognitions are instrumental when it comes to a person’s behavior; thus, when some sort of stimulus triggers negative emotions or thoughts, a person could find himself or herself behaving in self-destructive or maladaptive ways, which happens to characterize substance abuse and addiction-related behaviors.

The underlying mechanisms of EMDR therapy serve to help individuals either process or overcome overwhelming emotions, thoughts, and other cognitions, which are usually related to past experiences and trauma. For instance, a person suffering from post-traumatic stress resulting from prior abuse might find himself or herself unable to function normally when confronted with some sort of stimulus that makes the individual think about the past trauma. However, EMDR therapy aims to help with that.

Basically, the idea is that EMDR will help a person to desensitize himself or herself to emotional triggers through purposeful eye movements. When confronted with a stimulus, moving the eye in decisive ways helps to take the person’s mind off the prior incident. Rather than dwelling on the source of past trauma, the person comes to associate a physical movement or process with that trigger, effectively replacing an involuntary, uncontrollable emotion with a type of physical movement that can be controlled.

As mentioned above, EMDR therapy is increasingly associated with substance abuse and addiction. The reason that EMDR therapy has come to be so strongly associated with treatment for substance abuse and addiction is because people who suffer from substance abuse problems are often individuals who have experienced or suffered from some form of trauma in the past. In fact, using alcohol or drugs as a means of coping with past traumas is one of the most common causes of addiction; these individuals come to use the alcohol or drugs as coping mechanisms with such frequency that their bodies become physiologically dependent on the substances.

With EMDR therapy, individuals suffering from substance abuse problems are taught a valuable tool that will help them to mitigate the lingering effects of past trauma. This is essential, especially for recovery, since being confronted by triggers that evoke thoughts of past traumas is one of the most common causes of relapse after treatment. Thus, for many individuals EMDR therapy is often an important relapse prevention strategy that lends to the longevity of their newfound sobriety.

An EMDR therapy session has somewhat of a different process than a more conventional “talk therapy” session, which is largely due to EMDR therapy sessions being dependent on physical actions as much as they are dependent on cognitive processes. In practice, an EMDR therapy session has eight phases, which includes history and treatment planning, preparation, assessment, desensitization, installation, body scan, closure, and reevaluation.

Whether you’re seeking mental health support or substance abuse treatment, our EMDR therapy in Port Saint Lucie, Florida, is your premiere destination for recovery. For more information about our recovery support services or the treatments we offer, call Just Believe Recovery today at 877-978-1208

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