The Benefits of EMDR for Addiction

The National Council for Mental Wellbeing reports that a startling 70% of Americans (or 223.4 million people) have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lives. And while many of those individuals find ways to cope with their trauma so that they can continue to live healthy lives, just as many continue to struggle with the impacts of it. Thankfully, there are options to help address these issues, such as EMDR. The benefits of EMDR for addiction, in particular, can be life-changing.

What is EMDR? 

EMDR, which stands for eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing, is a form of psychotherapy that has proven to help individuals dealing with the effects of lasting trauma obtain relief from their symptoms through eye movement or tapping. A trained mental health professional will work one-on-one with an individual who has experienced one or more traumatic events to recall those events in an effort to effectively reprocess them so that they do not continue to create harm in their daily lives. 

How Does EMDR Work?

In order to understand how EMDR works, it is helpful to be aware of how trauma is processed. Someone who is experiencing a traumatic event will experience an overload to their system, forcing them into what is known as survival mode. When we enter into survival mode, our brain’s ability to reason shuts down, leaving us to become deeply affected by what is happening to us. What is left behind is a memory (oftentimes a clouded memory) of what the traumatic event was and a whole handful of emotions tied to that very event. Since we are in survival mode during the traumatic event, our brains do not process the event in a healthy manner. EMDR helps us do that. 

EMDR is broken down into eight separate phases, all of which are designed to safely help individuals recall their traumatic event as a means of applying reasoning to it that is not impacted by the brain’s sense of survival mode. These eight phases are as follows:

  1. History and treatment
  2. Preparation
  3. Assessment
  4. Desensitization
  5. Installation
  6. Body Scan
  7. Closure
  8. Revaluation 

The therapist first works by gathering as much history from the client as possible to better help them shape their approach to their care. Next, the therapist strives to establish a trusting relationship with the client so that they feel comfortable discussing their trauma. Part of this trust includes learning how EMDR works. The client will then assess their trauma as well as work with the therapist to become desensitized to it. Once the desensitization occurs, new thoughts and beliefs about the trauma can be effectively installed. Prior to ending an EMDR session, clients will conduct a body scan to identify any areas of their body where they are experiencing tension so that those feelings can be reprocessed. The goal of ending an EMDR session is to make sure it leaves the client feeling better and more in control than when they first stepped into the room. 

Benefits of EMDR for Addiction

The vast majority of individuals who develop an addiction often have a past history of one or more traumatic events. In fact, it is reported that nearly 50% of all individuals with a substance use disorder have experienced at least one traumatic event. This is the primary reason why mental illness and addiction occur at the same time. People who are abusing drugs or alcohol may be doing so in an effort to numb the depression they have developed as a result of a traumatic experience. Others may be addicted to drugs and alcohol and, as a result, are experiencing mental illness and trauma. Either way, the two tend to feed off one another, making EMDR so incredibly effective when it comes to treating both mental illness and addiction. 

Some of the most effective benefits of EMDR for addiction include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Reduce symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Allow for effective reprocessing of a traumatic event that may be causing one’s addiction
  • Encourage positive self-esteem by allowing individuals to regain control of their trauma
  • Reduce the desire to continue using drugs or alcohol because the traumatic events have been treated properly
  • Allow individuals to focus on other areas of their recovery because they are no longer swamped by the trauma that has held them back 

When a person’s trauma has been effectively addressed and reprocessed, it no longer possesses the power to assert control over an individual. Instead, that individual is now aware of what happened during that traumatic event and why with a new set of lenses that support their understanding of it. When the weight of trauma is lifted off of one’s shoulders, it frees up energy that can now be used to build a happy, healthy life of recovery. 

EMDR Treatment in South Florida 

EMDR treatment is one of the most popular forms of psychotherapy available for trauma. At Neuroscience Research Center in South Florida, we understand the several benefits of EMDR for addiction, which is why we apply it when indicated. If you or someone you love is grappling with the devastating effects of trauma and addiction, get in touch with us right now by calling or visiting our admissions page. We can help you overcome the challenges you are facing so that you can live free from trauma and substance abuse for good.

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