EMDR Therapy: How It Treats Substance Abuse

EMDR therapy uses bilateral eye movement while the patient processes traumatic memories. It was born out of the idea that negative reactions come from unprocessed struggles. Because it treats PTSD, EMDR may help people who use drugs and alcohol due to trauma.

EMDR, which stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, is a form of therapy designed to help people overcome trauma and addiction.

Though it is mainly used for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it has also been used alongside other types of addiction therapy to treat substance use disorders.

Many drug rehab centers in New England states use EMDR therapy to help their clients heal from multiple disorders.

Find everything you need to know about this addiction therapy technique below.

What Is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR blends exposure therapy, which desensitizes clients to negative memories, with aspects of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, and somatic therapy, which helps patients develop positive coping skills.

During EMDR sessions, the client recalls traumatic events that usually trigger an anxiety response.

At the same time, the person performs a mechanical movement such as following a moving object with their eyes or tapping their hand.

How Does EMDR Therapy Work?

Dr. Francine Shapiro, an American psychologist, developed EMDR after observing a client’s eye movements during a therapy session.

She used the hypothesis that negative trauma reactions occur when a person has not properly processed certain memories.

Shapiro built the EMDR model as a way to help clients process those memories. She used the eye movement aspect to reduce distressing trauma responses.

How Does EMDR Therapy Treat Addiction?

This type of therapy can help people with substance use disorders, especially if their addiction began with trauma.

According to Shapiro’s hypothesis, when people abuse alcohol or use drugs as a trauma response, they do so because they have not processed the reason for their addiction.

Therefore, processing that trauma through EMDR could reduce or eliminate the person’s perceived need to use substances.

EMDR may also be used to address any trauma that the person experienced as a result of using drugs or alcohol.

How Does EMDR Differ From Other Types Of Therapy?

Many contemporary therapies focus primarily on outcomes, coping skills, and how to respond to trauma-based reactions as they arise.

For instance, motivational interviewing helps people determine their goals and why they want to achieve those goals.

Family therapy, meanwhile, helps people learn how to address problems as a group.

EMDR, however, focuses specifically on the root cause of the patient’s trauma responses.

What Are The Benefits Of EMDR Therapy For Addiction?

EMDR isn’t often the first therapy recommended for substance abuse. Still, for several reasons, it can benefit people who have addictions.

PTSD Treatment

PTSD is one of the most common co-occurring disorders among people who abuse substances. Drugs and alcohol are often used to ignore or forget traumatic events.

The most effective substance abuse therapy will also address any co-occurring conditions, including PTSD.

If PTSD is the primary source of a person’s addiction, it may benefit that person to undergo a PTSD-specific form of therapy.

Short-Term Therapy

Starting therapy may seem overwhelming for first-time participants, especially when it requires a long-term commitment.

EMDR is a short-term therapy, using an average of six to 12 sessions to achieve results. It may, therefore, appeal to people who are overwhelmed by long-term treatment options.

Supplemental Therapy

Because it requires a short commitment, people may use EMDR in addition to another therapy.

EMDR can supplement other therapies if those therapies do not achieve everything that a person would like to achieve.

For example, a person could use EMDR to process negative memories while using CBT to develop coping skills for their daily life.

Addiction Therapy At Spring Hill

Addiction recovery is a complex process, and treatment should be tailored to the person’s individual needs.

Spring Hill Recovery Center offers many evidence-based therapies, including EMDR.

If you or a loved one may need substance abuse recovery treatment, contact Spring Hill Recovery Center today.

  1. American Psychological Association — Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/treatments/eye-movement-reprocessing
  2. Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration — Co-Occurring Disorders And Other Health Conditions https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions/co-occurring-disorders
  3. United States Department Of Veterans Affairs — Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing (EMDR) For PTSD https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand_tx/emdr.asp

Written by Spring Hill Recovery Editorial Team

© 2024 Spring Hill Recovery | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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