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What is EMDR Therapy – And Can It Help With Addiction?

EMDR therapy Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) offers hope to people who have been deeply affected by one or more traumatic events. People have complex reactions to trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and several other chronic psychological conditions. EMDR therapy is a form of psychotherapy that provides a promising approach to treat PTSD and other related conditions. For those suffering from addictions, it could prove effective in addressing underlying causes of a substance use disorder.

How EMDR Therapy Works

EMDR uses bilateral movement and a brief focus on past trauma to relieve the negative reactions associated with traumatic memories. Typically, a therapist performing EMDR therapy will create a bilateral stimulus by moving their fingers or another object side to side, prompting a patient’s eye to follow the object. This movement mimics the eye movements one experiences during REM sleep, and some experts even believe this treatment acts upon the same brain processes involved in this unique stage of sleep. While being engaged with bilateral eye movement, a person will focus on the traumatic memory. The goal is to change the way the brain stores and reacts to that memory. By reducing associated anxiety, therapy weakens the grip of past trauma on a sufferer. When you see a video of EMDR therapy, you might initially think of it as some sort of hypnosis, but it isn’t. The patient is fully aware of what is happening throughout the therapy, and they are fully in control of their actions. EMDR therapy is simply reframing the way a traumatic memory is accessed by the brain.

Can EMDR Therapy Help People Suffering from an Addiction?

So much of addiction treatment involves identifying the root causes of a substance use disorder. EMDR is one of the more promising recent advances in psychotherapy. Addictions can have many causes, and past trauma often plays a significant role in a person’s substance use disorder. If traumatic experiences contribute to a person’s depression or anxiety, treating those conditions could also help them manage their addiction.

Understanding the Impact of Trauma

Trauma leaves a mark on sufferers in the form of psychological and emotional suffering. A person might continue relive that suffering continuously if their condition isn’t addressed. Traumatic events can include combat, car crashes, abuse, violence or any other acute or chronic stressful events that have a deep impact on one’s psychological state. Trauma can be classified in five categories: interpersonal trauma, impersonal trauma, identity trauma, community trauma and complex trauma. These classifications highlight the fact that trauma can be one event or several of them. We might experience trauma from being at the wrong place in the wrong time (impersonal trauma), growing up in a violent household where repeated abuses occur (complex trauma), or being subjected to abuse or discrimination because of who they are (identity trauma). Anxiety is one of the most common responses to traumatic events. People can reexperience anxieties associated with trauma when they encounter certain triggers. When they see an object or place that their brain associates with the event, they might experience a recurrence of the reactions they had when first traumatized.

Why EMDR Therapy Is Worth a Try

EMDR therapy involves no medication or surgery. It is not invasive, nor are there likely any significant health consequences that one will experience if they try it. The risks of side effects are low, and the potential rewards are high. Thus, EMDR therapy has few downsides. When effective, it dramatically improves a sufferer’s quality of life.

EMDR Therapy is One of Many Available Tools

EMDR therapy is a promising tool that therapists can use to treat their patients. It can be used alongside other traditional treatments, including cognitive behavioral therapy, cognitive processing therapy, psychodrama and life story therapy. These approaches all have their place in treatment. It’s important to work with professionals who understand the available tools, so they can help identify which ones will be most effective for you.

Contact Makana Path to Learn More About Your Treatment Options

If you want to address your addiction and find a path to recovery, we can help. At Makana Path, we believe that no trauma is beyond healing. We offer several approaches for our clients, and we conduct assessments to determine which approach could work best for you. Contact Makana Path today by calling 1-866-922-0776.