People often deal with distressing and or traumatic memories by repressing them, or avoiding them all together. EMDR helps individuals deal with these “repressed” memories. A full treatment may involve of a handful of sessions or years of therapy. EMDR involves eight phases that include identifying traumatic life events, processing the traumatic memories and transforming them into a learning experience. Using a combination of methods—including guided eye movements, playing tones or tapping the patient’s hands.
EMDR is effective because it allows repressed or unprocessed memories to surface while addressing these memories in a ways that substantially reduces their future impact. Psychotherapy studies have shown that EMDR is very effective for treating individuals who use drugs and alcohol as a form of self medication to avoid dealing with traumatic incidents.
The main focus of EMDR therapy is processing memories stored in the brain. EMDR is used to compliment other therapies like Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)—and not as a stand alone therapy. According to Francine Shapiro, the Dr. who pioneered EMDR “traumatic memories aren’t necessarily a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder. Something relatively small like being bullied at the age of five can cause even more symptoms of PTSD than a major trauma,” she says. “It’s often a wide variety of life experiences that lead to the memories, beliefs and doubts that set the foundation for addiction. When those things are triggered, feelings of negativity and self-doubt like “I’m not good enough” or “I’m not lovable” begin to surface. And when people can’t cope with these feelings, they turn to drugs to kill them.”
According to Maria, a 42 year old 42-year-old business owner struggling with alcoholism “I don’t think the sexual abuse specifically made me an alcoholic but the feelings of insecurity, shame and fear from it were things that I drank over,” she says. “I had blocked out certain parts and the therapy not only helped me go in and see the whole thing but also to go in as an adult and view it differently.”
EMDR is one of the many comprehensive evidence based addiction treatments available at Cold Creek Behavioral Health. Each client receives a comprehensive intake evaluation to identify what specific issues are contributing to their addiction. If a traumatic life event or PTSD is identified, the clients counselor will likely include EMDR therapy in their personalized treatment plan.