EMDR therapy treatment

5 Ways EMDR Enhances Addiction Treatment

Written By: Gentle Path

By Beau Black

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR, is a strange-sounding treatment, but it can be very useful in helping anyone who suffers from depression, addiction, or various forms of trauma.

According to Healthline.com, traumatic and painful memories can cause post-traumatic stress when you haven’t fully processed them. These difficult moments are then re-experienced when they are triggered by sights, sounds, words, or smells. EMDR therapy can help to alter your re-experiencing and how your memories are kept in your mental storage. In fact, studies shared by EMDR Institute Inc. show a 77-90% effectiveness of EMDR therapy in resolving post-traumatic stress.

EMDR therapy can help to alter your re-experiencing and how your memories are kept in your mental storage.

A counselor trained in EMDR guides the process by leading you through a series of side-to-side eye motions, or using handheld paddles or other bilateral stimulation, as you access traumatic memories in short stretches. This practice lessens the intensity of the memory and its emotional impact, allowing you to process it without an overwhelming psychological response. A single traumatic event can be reprocessed in as few as three 90-minute sessions, with repeated trauma requiring more sessions to resolve.

How Does EMDR Work in the Brain?

EMDR Institute, Inc. describes how our brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If our system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound “festers,” causing intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing can continue.

EMDR taps into the same process we go through during REM sleep. It helps your brain unlearn old thoughts and feelings that were attached to certain memories so it can form new ones that no longer cause pain or psychological distress. As mysterious as it may seem, study after study supports EMDR’s effectiveness.

Using EMDR for Addiction Treatment

While EMDR has proven helpful in treating people with depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions, it has also shown to be especially effective when used in addiction treatment. Below are the top five ways EMDR can enhance your treatment if you struggle with addiction:

1. Unresolved trauma can no longer fester.

Often when we have harmful experiences, we tend to lock them away to avoid revisiting the pain they cause. Rather than being forgotten, they can fester and induce anxiety, depression, feelings of self-loathing, and more. Experiencing these aftereffects of unresolved trauma can drive us to self-medicate with sex or substance abuse. With EMDR therapy, the festering halts as the trauma begins to heal, so you are less drawn to quick, easy, and unhealthy sources of temporary comfort.

2. Your trauma experiences are revealed.

Even if your experiences aren’t what you might consider traumatic, EMDR therapy can help to reveal any form of unresolved trauma that triggers a post-traumatic stress reaction. You don’t have to have been shot at in a war zone to experience trauma. Situations where our emotional or physical well-being have been threatened, especially repeatedly, count as trauma, too. Uncovering your past hurt is a vital part of the healing process that EMDR assists with.

3. The root of the problem gets resolved.

Because addiction is often rooted in traumatic experiences, getting at those roots can help to speed us toward recovery. Unfortunately, we often build defense systems around hard experiences that make them difficult to access with techniques like traditional talk-based therapy. Essentially, EMDR will help you to get around those defenses by partially distracting your brain in the process. This allows the roots of your problems to be uncovered and resolved much quicker and easier than with other forms of therapy.

4. Bad memories are replaced with good memories.

After traumatic memories are processed, your therapist may have you focus on positive memories to replace the bad ones. It may take some time after treatment for the interchanging of negative experiences with encouraging, affirming memories to be completely integrated. But once done, EMDR may help you find freedom from much or all of the pain of the trauma you experienced.

5. Your trigger points are minimized.

According to EMDR Institute, Inc., as EMDR therapy helps you gain insight into your situation, your emotional stress is relieved and your behavior starts to change. Fewer stressors should, in time, equate to less pain and fewer triggers to self-medicate with substance use, sex, and other strategies. This is just another reason why more and more therapists are using EMDR for addiction treatment.

If you or someone you love is struggling with unresolved trauma, addiction, or depression accompanied by sexual issues, help is available at Gentle Path at The Meadows. We offer a wide range of treatment strategies for men, from the conventional to the innovative, to move you towards mental and physical wellness. Reach out to our caring team to take the first step toward healing today.

July 28th, 2022

Categories: addiction treatment therapy treatment

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