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a woman in addiction therapy benefits from an emdr therapy session

What Is EMDR Therapy and How Can it Help in Addiction Treatment?

Addiction is a complex chronic disease that can stem from many causes. One of the biggest triggers for addiction is trauma. However, this poses another layer of complexity in addiction treatment. When someone struggles with co-occurring disorders, it’s paramount to treat them simultaneously to guarantee that they won’t jeopardize each other’s progress. That’s when Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy comes in. Contact Lighthouse Recovery Institute at 866.308.2090 to learn more about our addiction therapy programs

What Is EMDR Therapy?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy is a psychotherapy technique that helps relieve psychological stress. It’s an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and can help anyone recovering from trauma. 

During EMDR therapy sessions, the patient relives traumatic or triggering experiences while the therapist directs their eye movements. During some of these phases, rapid eye movements help to link neural pathways and alleviate adverse cognitive reactions.

The idea is to recall distressing episodes focusing on an external stimulus, making them less emotionally upsetting. Over time, this form of therapy can help people experience these triggers and negative beliefs without unfavorable psychological responses or physical sensations.

What Can EMDR Be Used to Treat?

It’s worth noting that EMDR is not a silver bullet that will immediately cure these disorders. Instead, when integrated into the therapeutic process, it affects positive beliefs and overall mental health. Some of the conditions that EMDR can help with include the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Chronic illness
  • Depression
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Grief and loss
  • Pain
  • Panic disorders
  • Performance anxiety
  • Personality disorders
  • PTSD and other trauma and stress-related disorders
  • Sexual assault
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Violence and abuse 

How Is EMDR Therapy Different?

There are many different therapies to process trauma. However, unlike other styles, EMDR doesn’t require discussing the issues or completing homework between sessions. Instead of focusing on changing the emotions or behaviors, it helps the brain resume its natural healing process. 

EMDR therapy can help solve unprocessed traumatic memories in the brain. Trauma resolution may take years to achieve in traditional talk therapy and can be accomplished in weeks with EMDR. This is due to the neurological and physiological components of trauma, i.e., how it’s stored and accessed by the brain and body. It helps accelerate trauma resolution by:

  • Clustering similar traumatic memories and engaging/resolving them as one
  • Directly accessing and fixing “dysfunctional state-dependent material”
  • Engaging traumatic neural networks and also deciding them on a physiological level

How Does EMDR Therapy Work?

According to EMDR, our brains have a natural ability to recover from traumatic events. This form of therapy connects the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex. These are areas of the brain that signal stressful events, assist with memories, and control behaviors and emotions. 

Instead of hoping to erase memories or erase a traumatic image, EMDR helps the brain process these memories healthily. You will still remember the experience, but your fight-or-freeze response from the actual event will be resolved. So, you will no longer experience distress when reliving these disturbing events. 

What to Expect from EMDR Therapy

The whole treatment takes approximately 12 EMDR sessions, which are broken down into eight different treatment phases. Each phase helps the patient understand the form of therapy to gain the benefits from each session effectively.

Phase 1: Treatment Planning

The first sessions will be more about reviewing the patient’s history. The evaluation includes talking about the traumatic experience and identifying any other unresolved traumatic memories. 

Phase 2: Preparation

Once your therapist knows where you are in the treatment process, they’ll explain ways to cope with the emotional or psychological stress you’re experiencing. Techniques like practicing mindfulness or deep breathing can help with stress management. 

Phase 3: Assessment 

This phase of treatment is when your therapist will identify the specific memories that you’ll target during therapy. They’ll assess the different components that play a role in this trigger to target them throughout the treatment. 

Phases 4-7: Treatment

The following sessions are when you start engaging in EMDR therapy. Patients are asked to focus on a negative image, negative thought, or memory. Simultaneously, your therapist will ask you to follow specific eye movements. 

After this, known as bilateral stimulation, your therapist will ask you to let your mind go blank and notice your feelings and emotions. Once you identify these thoughts, your therapist will have you refocus your attention on that traumatic memory or move to another. Over time, the distress over particular memories or images should start to fade. 

Phase 8: Evaluation

In the final stage of your treatment plan, your therapist will ask you to evaluate your progress. Simultaneously, your therapist will do the same to determine if you need more sessions. 

Discover EMDR Therapy at Lighthouse Recovery Institute 

Therapies like EMDR can help those in substance abuse treatments to heal their trauma and manage their PTSD symptoms to help them focus on their recovery better. As you might know, stress or trauma is often a trigger for substance abuse. Thus, dealing with both conditions simultaneously is paramount for long-term recovery.

Our specialized therapists at Lighthouse Recovery Institute incorporate treatment options like EMDR to help those in recovery health better. If you or someone you know is struggling with trauma and addiction, please contact us today at 866.308.2090 or by filling out our online form.

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