The Specifics of EMDR and How It Helps Recovery

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New treatments and therapies are being developed every day to help those struggling with mental health concerns and substance use. One of the more modern treatments is being implemented in programs across the United States due to its benefits for individuals struggling with trauma, substance use, and anxiety disorders. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of non-traditional psychotherapy. Utilizing EMDR can create a difference in what recovery looks like for the individual. 

What is EMDR?

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of psychotherapy that aids individuals in alleviating stress and learning to cope with traumatic memories. The therapy was created to help treat patients that had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and trauma. During sessions, you are asked to relive some of these traumatic experiences while the therapist directs eye movements. The theory is that living with traumatic experiences and coping with them is more comfortable when your attention is diverted, and the memory’s impact is less intense. 

Eight Stages of EMDR

EMDR utilizes eight stages typically spread over twelve different sessions to help you move at your own pace through the therapy. 

Step One

Step one involves your therapist reviewing your history, including personal and related to treatment. This stage also allows them to develop a plan based on what memories you want to treat and what you want to get out of the therapy. 

Step Two

During step two, you will be taught various coping mechanisms to help during the later stages, where you will be asked to recall traumatic memories. These often involve mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing and meditation. You can also find a safe space in your head or practice “container exercises,” where you visualize a container and put thoughts into it that you only want to visit with a therapist’s safety.

Step Three

Step three requires you and your therapist to work together to identify the exact memories that will be treated. During this stage, they will learn what triggers each memory, such as physical sensations, sounds, etc.

Step 4-7

During steps four through seven, you start the act of EMDR. Starting the actions required means that you will recall a negative thought or experience while the therapist guides your eye movements. Over time, these sessions will help you overcome the distress associated with your traumatic memories.

Stage Eight

In stage eight, you and your therapist evaluate your progress and experience during the sessions. Therapy will then end, and a plan will be made as to what you should do after.

What to Expect During an EMDR Session

Going to therapy to cope with traumatic events from your past can be intimidating and anxiety-inducing. Knowing what to expect will help you prepare for the sessions during steps four through seven. 

During EMDR, you will start by being asked to focus on a single negative memory, image, or experience that brings you distress. The therapist will then direct your eye movements using sounds, taps, or spoken words. You will then be asked what you are feeling or what comes to mind during the therapist’s eye movements guidance. Each session will continue between 60 and 90 minutes, or until you ask to stop if you are feeling overwhelmed. Sessions will continue until you no longer feel distressed when thinking of traumatic memories or experiences. 

The Benefits of EDMR

EMDR has various benefits for a wide range of individuals seeking treatment for multiple concerns. The therapy was created to help treat those struggling with PTSD or trauma, but it can also help treat anxiety, panic attacks, depression, addiction, and eating disorders. In general, it is beneficial for those that have a hard time talking about past experiences because it helps alleviate the stress and discomfort felt when those experiences are thought about. 

How Does EMDR Help Addiction?

Many treatment centers for substance use disorder (SUD) use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help their clients recover. The use of CBT is beneficial because EMDR can be used alongside these types of therapies to help the person cope and progress in their recovery. The reason that EMDR can help heal addiction is that it is so often associated with trauma. Healing this trauma can help the person overcome painful memories and look to a brighter future ahead. Other benefits that EMDR holds for those recovering from addiction include:

  • Improving self-esteem
  • Boosting self-efficacy
  • Alleviating triggers
  • Healing physical/psychological symptoms of trauma
  • Reducing stress associated with past traumatic memories

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a newer form of treatment that aids in learning to cope with distressing memories individuals have from past traumatic experiences. The therapy occurs by having a client recall a painful memory, experience, image, sensation, or thought, and then having the therapist control the person’s eye movements. The theory is that memory can become less distressing when your attention is diverted. EMDR utilizes eight stages for the client to move through to complete the therapy. The significant benefit of EMDR is that it not only helps heal PTSD and trauma patients, but it can also be useful in treating addiction, panic disorders, depression, and eating disorders. For these reasons, treatment centers such as Everlast Recovery Center use EMDR to help their patients heal from a life of substance use. To learn more about how EMDR can help you recover from addiction and find happiness in sobriety, call 866-DETOX-25 today.

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