EMDR for Addiction and Trauma
EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitizing and Reprocessing Therapy is an innovative trauma recovery technique offered by Just Believe Recovery Center. During a session, the therapist engages the patient in a stimulation exercise in which past trauma is discussed.
Simultaneously, different parts of the brain are activated through a series of eye movements, often facilitated by moving lights or objects. By alternating between positive and negative thoughts with corresponding eye movement, the brain begins to desensitize itself to negative images and memories.
How does EMDR work?
While the exact reason why EMDR is effective at eradicating negative memories is uncertain, many neuropsychologists contend that this technique enables the patient to accelerate the emotional processing of trauma-related thoughts and feelings – thus gaining insight and making progress toward closure. This is not dissimilar to the rapid accessing of information during REM sleep, which is believed to help reduce anxiety.
This effect was first encountered in 1989 by psychotherapist Francine Shapiro, Ph.D., who admitted the discovery was an accident. Along with associates, she developed multiple procedures for bilateral stimulation through trial, error, and refinement. Additional improvements have been made by research centers worldwide.
What does EMDR treat?
EMDP treats a range of emotional and behavioral problems, including substance abuse, depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, and other self-destructive behaviors.
Many of these mental health issues are partially the result of some trauma we have experienced, ranging from childhood to very recent events. The typical human response is to forget the trauma, but this does not allow the person to heal or come to any productive resolution.
Other models, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, have had some success by helping the patient to modify thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in addition to improved coping skills.
How does EMDR treat addiction?
Addiction may occur, in part, due to trauma or stressful life events. The person uses substances to self-medicate, or temporarily repress/forget traumatic memories.
Comorbidity (multiple illnesses) is common among both trauma victims and addicts, and the two conditions often present together, making each difficult to treat individually.
While EMDR is not a cure for addiction, it may effectively treat the underlying reason (trauma) for self-medication. Often, it is most effective when combined with other therapies, appropriate medication, or group support.
How effective is EMDR?
EMDR has proven to be effective in both clinical trials and practice. For example, the Journal of EMDR Practice and Research (2009) followed an addict who had been treated several times in a drug rehabilitation center. Although she had relapsed each time soon after release, the addition of the EMDR technique led to 1.5 years of abstinence – more than a three-fold increase in sobriety. She also reported improved quality of life.
Most significantly, EMDR is approved for treatment of PTSD by both the American Psychological Association and the Department of Defense. Current research reveals up to a 90% success rate for a variety of trauma, including both single and multiple events. The number of sessions varies, determinate upon the level of trauma, the length of trauma exposure, or the response of the patient.