Addiction therapists use numerous methods to treat mental health disorders, including drug addiction. One of these is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). The long name itself could intimidate people who seek treatment for addiction. However, EMDR therapy isn’t as complex for patients as it sounds.

What Is EMDR Therapy?

A woman discusses EMDR therapy with a counselor. EMDR is a therapy method that combines elements from other trauma treatment approaches. Research establishes it as an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. However, it’s also successful in treating addictions and other mental illnesses as well.

In a talk therapy dominated industry, EMDR is different. Dialogue is part of this addiction treatment. However, patients must also participate in the purposeful direction of eye movements, which their therapists guide.

Theory Behind EMDR

The theory behind EMDR is that negative thoughts and behaviors develop because people don’t address traumatic events. The brain stores these events as harmful memories that can disrupt emotional, mental and social function.

The objective of EMDR is to revisit these memories to help the brain understand and contain them. The eye movements help with how the brain processes the information. The brain discards the negative thoughts and beliefs, replacing them with positive ones. In the future, patients can use what they learn from the therapy in positive ways.

EMDR Treatment Phases

EMDR therapy occurs in eight phases. Although it can deliver fast results, the duration of the treatment depends on the patient’s history.

Preparing for Treatment

In the first phase of treatment, patients provide information about their history and their negative memory or memories. Some people have multiple negative memories to address, which may require more sessions. Therapists use the information to create a tailored treatment plan. This part of the process usually takes a day or two.

The second phase involves therapists preparing their patients for revisiting and talking about the memory. Patients need to learn coping and relaxation skills such as deep breathing since the memories can foster painful feelings. They can use these techniques during and in between sessions. The learning process may take up to four sessions.

In the next phase, therapists lead patients in picturing the negative memory. They also need to think of a negative belief from the memory and a positive belief as a goal. For example, a negative belief could be, “I’m worthless,” and a positive one could be “I’m a good person.” Patients then rate how strongly they believe these ideas and give their emotional and physical reactions toward them.

Treatment From Beginning to End

Desensitization is phase four and marks the beginning of reprocessing. Therapists ask patients to become aware of negative sensations while they guide their eye movements. They might use their hand, physical tapping or sounds as guidance. Therapists continue using this stimulation until their patients report a lower level of distress.

Phase five focuses on processing the positive belief from the third phase. Therapists stimulate their patients’ eye movements as they think about the positive ideas. This phase ends when the patients report fully believing in the ideas.

In the sixth phase, therapists check how well the previous phases worked. They ask their patients to recall any remaining negative elements from their traumatic memories. However, if any still remain, they go back to phase four.

Patients get closure in the seventh phase so that they leave the session feeling better than when they arrived. However, when the process doesn’t work in one session, therapists help patients use calming techniques to regain balance. Additionally, they may encourage their patients to keep a journal of their experience and the techniques that they used.

Assessing the Results

The final phase occurs in the following session and involves a reassessment. Therapists and patients discuss and evaluate progress and experiences in between sessions. During this session, the therapists decide whether or not to continue addressing the same negative belief. If not, they move on to a new negative belief and positive idea relating to the traumatic memory.

Get Addiction Therapy at Soledad House

By discarding negative beliefs and programming positive ideas, EMDR therapy is effective in treating addiction. Using 11 years of experience, Soledad House helps women overcome addiction with a variety of therapy methods. Our range of womens addiction treatment programs and therapies include:

Don’t let drug or alcohol addiction control your life. Regain control and learn to manage addiction so that you can live a sober, healthy life. Contact Soledad House at 866-314-3222 to begin your journey to addiction recovery.