EMDR for Addiction

Using Eye Movement Response for Addiction Treatment

Throughout history, more therapeutic techniques have been employed for addiction treatment and mental disorders than one could imagine. Some of these methods have been successful in treating trauma symptoms and healing addiction, while others did nothing at all – and in some cases, even made things worse.

Some of the more unbelievable forms of treatment include the Nobel Prize-winning Lobotomy (removing the connection between the prefrontal cortex and frontal lobe), ice bathing, bloodletting, Metrazol therapy (the deliberate triggering of seizures), and the still-used electroconvulsive therapy. Currently, a relatively new form of addiction treatment that many consider unconventional – albeit not as extreme as the previously mentioned options – is proving to be quite effective.

Because of the positive results, many clients have questions regarding this unorthodox form of therapy and where it’s available. At Icarus Behavioral Health Nevada, we provide sessions that employ this treatment – and many insurance companies provide coverage.

If you’re considering using this as a means of battling your substance use disorder, stick around until the end of the article to find out how you can receive top-of-the-line EMDR for addiction at Icarus Behavioral Health.

What Is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR Therapy

The use of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, also known as EMDR, is a relatively technique that helps those who suffer from mental health or substance use disorders as a result of traumatic memories or a traumatic event.

EMDR therapy uses eye movement desensitization to help clients overcome scars from traumatic events that lead to substance abuse. The client is directed to think about the most vivid details of their traumatic memories while being led to follow sounds, taps, or eye movements during the recollection. This happens in several phases, leading to powerful results for those with post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use disorders.

What Does EMDR Help With?

It helps with a range of conditions, from posttraumatic stress disorder and PTSD symptoms, along with a range of other potential mental health disorders, with or without the co-occurrence of substance abuse disorder. Currently, addiction treatment uses a combination of evidence-based therapy and medication-assisted treatment as the primary method of relieving psychological and physical symptoms.

EMDR uses eye movements to assist clients in revisiting traumatic experiences – hence the name “reprocessing therapy.” To put it simply, EMDR guides clients into reprocessing therapy by suggesting they return to traumatic experiences they never previously dealt with or processed.

Although it is a mouthful, eye movement desensitization reprocessing or EMDR works for trauma as well as the traumatic memories that accompany addictive disorders.

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A Brief Background on EMDR Therapy

A psychotherapist named Francine Shapiro first discovered EMDR therapy through somewhat of an accident. Dealing with her own traumatic memories, she noticed that certain eye movements helped reduce negative thoughts, feelings, and actions associated with past trauma.

She began administering EMDR therapy to clients who had a history of traumatic events and were officially diagnosed with PTSD or some other form of mental health disorder. Eventually, she began perfecting different eye movement desensitization techniques and implemented additional stimulating actions into the treatment sessions, including taps, clicks, and other stimulating actions.

EMDR Therapy Method of Action

According to the scientific model behind EMDR therapy, the failure to properly process traumatic events can lead to numerous mental health disorders with or without the presence of substance abuse. It can also lead to the dysfunctional storage of a traumatic memory, causing even more emotional distress.

During the process, participants regain their ability to process the information stored deep inside the mind. The areas of the brain most affected by a traumatic memory are targeted during EMDR therapy.

What Happens During an EMDR Session?

During the treatment, clients use a multi-attention form of stimulation to hold the memories and thoughts that are related to the traumatic event. This helps them identify and resolve their triggers.

During the EMDR therapy sessions, they’ll be instructed to remember a significant memory that’s affected them in the most significant way. It can be a memory that leads them to engage in substance abuse or a memory that triggers a panic attack – anything that drives the symptoms of their trauma.

While simultaneously focusing on the traumatic situation and reliving the events in the mind, clients are instructed to follow a series of hand motions, clicks, or other stimuli. What ends up taking place is their conscious mind begins following the stimuli associated with movement desensitization and reprocessing.

Lessening Traumatic Symptoms Effectively

Because they were heavily focused on their traumatic memories, the subconscious mind continues to focus on these events during eye movement desensitization, allowing the mind to process these events without the client even realizing what’s happening.

The result is a marked decrease in the side effects and severity of traumatic symptoms, and a solid foundation for battling substance abuse.

The Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Steps and Specifics for Addiction Treatment

EMDR for Addiction Treatment

After assessing whether or not EMDR therapy is for addiction treatment, the therapist will start by asking the client to focus on various aspects of their traumatic experiences. This could include their feelings, beliefs, or even physical memory. While the client is being asked to focus on the negative event, other sensory stimulation methods such as taps and eye movements are also used.

Saccadic eye movements are short and sharp movements that can help people focus on a moving object. Those who use desensitization and reprocessing EMDR claim that these movements can help clients reprocess their past experiences and prevent them from experiencing an overwhelming emotional response during the recollection, which would generally be the result.

Although it focuses on the eyes and stimulation as the primary action, EMDR therapy focuses on certain elements of cognitive behavioral therapy as well.

8-Phase System for Treating Addiction and Dealing With Traumatic Memory

During an addiction treatment program that helps clients to reprocess traumatic memories, the process takes place in 8 phases. You also may have visits with a different licensed mental health counselor throughout the 8 phases. During these sessions, you can expect the following:

  1. The first phase of therapy is usually focused on history and treatment planning. During this period, the client and the therapist talk about the targets and goals during treatment. This includes topics such as traumatic events and other areas of concern.
  2. The second phase of the therapy is preparation, where the client is instructed on how to cope with their trauma. This includes relaxation, breathing, and other practices that can alleviate stress.
  3. The third phase of therapy is the assessment, where the client and the therapist talk about triggers and challenges that lead to stress. The two then work together to develop effective strategies to reduce the impact of these issues on the client.
  4. The therapist combines the use of eye movement techniques with the client’s emotional experiences and traumatic events to help shift the focus away from the damaging effects of their traumatic event. When the therapist speaks about past trauma, they will use positive terms to describe negative events and specifics concerning the client’s traumatic memories.
  5. The installation phase involves the therapist working with the client to strengthen their positive feelings about their past experiences and determining if they’re able to navigate daily adverse experiences.
  6. The sixth phase of therapy is called a body scan, where the therapist and client assess and analyze any specific areas of tension or stress physically that might need attention, and if they’re found, the best ways to treat them.
  7. The seventh phase of therapy, known as closure, involves reassessing the client’s reactions to the treatment to ensure that they have responded to it and believe in its effectiveness.
  8. The last phase of the therapy is the evaluation. It involves the client and the therapist taking stock and analyzing the 8 stages as a whole to make sure that everything is working properly. If all the goals are satisfied, typically there is no need to continue additional phases.

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How Does EMDR Treatment Help Treat Addiction Specifically?

How do EMDR treatment and the positive emotions manifested by this therapy help specifically in the case of substance use?

EMDR is an effective form of treatment for those suffering from PTSD, past trauma, or abuse. Addressing the underlying cause of these issues can help reduce substance abuse triggered by such memories. At Icarus Behavioral Health in Nevada, we use this form of treatment daily to treat many different clients.

Obviously, clear connections exist between those who suffer from PTSD and trauma-related disorders who have a much higher chance of engaging in substance use. By using EMDR therapy to treat the distressing memories associated with their traumatic experience, emotional responses, and negative reactions are reduced drastically – leading to much lower occurrences of dysfunctional behaviors and a rise in coping skills.

This is all possible without the use of psychoactive drugs and is often noticeably more effective than traditional talk therapy.

Combining EMDR Practice With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Combining EMDR With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

If you recall earlier, we mentioned that the EMDR therapy approach is often combined with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Listed below, we offer some of the best examples of different therapeutic approaches that are generally the most successful, along with accomplishments of these treatment combos:

  • Most behavioral and cognitive therapy sessions involve the completion of homework and assignments. In addition, clients must complete practice tasks at home.
  • Developing a strong working relationship between a client and counselor is an important dynamic of successful therapy. During the reprocessing phase, clients are also required to reflect on their trauma. This is a part of the therapy that’s commonly referred to as exposure treatment, which is a variety of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
  • The goal of cognitive restructuring is to transform your thoughts, beliefs, and reactions in a more realistic and positive manner. This therapy is commonly used for those with depression and addiction issues. A dysfunctional way of thinking can lead to these types of disorders.
  • During this process, CBT helps you identify your core toxic beliefs and develop a more realistic and positive outlook on life. In addition, through EMDR therapy, you can develop a new perspective on your past traumas, effectively treating the disorders mentioned above.

Trauma Therapy: Where Does EMDR Fit In?

So where does EMDR currently exist in regard to the collection of different types of treatments and therapies used for mental health and substance abuse disorders? While not technically grouped with evidence-based therapies, it’s difficult to doubt the effectiveness of this type of behavioral treatment.

The numbers have proven that this treatment is more than just a flash in the pan or temporary fad – it has real lasting results that treat severe symptoms and conditions.

An Evidence Based and Effective Practice

As time goes on and more clients continue to receive treatment using this method, the case for more widespread adoption of EMDR will only strengthen. One major roadblock with facilities using this as a primary strategy is the fact that it takes a specialized form of licensing through the state to use legally.

A counselor must be specifically certified in the practices of MDR before using it on any client. This may cause challenges when it comes to some counselors and their eligibility to roll out this type of treatment.

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Get Effective Help for Addiction Using EMDR at Icarus

If you suffer from some form of trauma that’s leading to substance abuse challenges, you might be a good candidate for EMDR. Our counselors are EMDR certified and state-licensed to treat our clients with this form of therapy – and it’s produced some amazing results.

For more information about how we can help you, contact a member of our admissions team today!