Is EMDR Right for You?

When seeking recovery from substance use disorder (SUD) and other mental health disorders, it is common for individuals to become overwhelmed by the number of treatment programs available. Fortunately, treatment facilities often offer several different types of treatment programs, offering clients access to an abundance of therapeutic interventions. Psychotherapy is often utilized in tandem with other therapies to enhance the effectiveness of an individual’s overall treatment and recovery journey.

One common underlying cause of mental health distress and substance abuse is trauma. Effective treatment for SUD and mental health disorders requires clients to address and overcome unresolved trauma. This explains why many treatment centers offer trauma-focused treatment interventions, such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. Becoming familiar with EMDR therapy and how it can benefit the recovery process can be helpful when working to understand if this form of therapy will be right for you. 

What Is Trauma?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines “trauma as an event or circumstance that results in physical, emotional, and/or life-threatening harm.” Further, the event or circumstance causes lasting consequences on an individual’s mental, physical, emotional, social, and spiritual health and well-being. 

Anyone can be affected by trauma. It is important to understand that trauma is subjective. Likewise, traumatic experiences impact individuals in unique ways. While some individuals may heal from trauma with time, others may experience long-lasting effects that negatively impact their ability to function in their daily lives. 

Understanding the Long-Lasting Effects of Trauma 

For instance, many individuals will develop mental health disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression, as a response to trauma. Others may turn to alcohol and other drugs in an attempt to self-medicate their symptoms. Unfortunately, both of these circumstances increase an individual’s risk of developing SUD and worsening mental health issues.

It is vital to recognize that the challenges that may present from untreated mental and behavioral health disorders can be lost-lasting. These conditions interfere with the ways an individual thinks, feels, and behaves. In turn, their relationships, careers, and other aspects of their life may experience catastrophic consequences. This is why understanding the value of trauma-focused treatments in recovery is imperative to secure lasting healing. 

What Is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR therapy is a form of trauma-focused psychotherapy that was developed to treat trauma, PTSD, and other negative life experiences. This approach encourages a client to focus on a traumatic experience while participating in bilateral or tactile stimulation, such as using right/left eye movements as well as sounds. Repeating these stimulations simultaneously activates both sides of the brain, which helps to release trauma and other emotional experiences that are “stuck” in the nervous system.

The main focus of EMDR therapy is centered on the adaptive information processing model (AIP). According to this model, memories of trauma are stored in the brain’s neural network. As a result of these maladaptively stored memories of trauma, the brain creates obstacles to the rational processing of information. The process of EMDR works to remove these obstacles within the brain, which reduces the effects of trauma-related symptoms.

What to Expect During an EMDR Session

During the first session, a client can expect to learn about the physical and emotional reactions that often result from trauma. The therapist will gauge how ready their client is to address their traumatic memories before beginning any exercise. Then, the therapist will equip the client with the necessary coping skills they can use throughout their treatment sessions. 

Next, the client will identify the traumatic memory they want to focus on during their session. They will be prompted to focus on this memory and any uncomfortable bodily sensations or emotions connected to it. The client will be asked to hold this memory in their mind while they pay attention to a stimulus provided by the therapist. Some stimuli include a therapist’s finger moving back and forth or a beeping tone. The client will focus on their memory and this stimulus until their distress reduces. Often, each exercise will last about 30 seconds at a time. 

Between exercises, the therapist will ask the client to discuss the exercise. Over time and several exercises, a client can expect to experience reduced emotional charge when they recall a particular traumatic memory. Sessions can focus on multiple traumatic experiences at once or focus on one event over the course of several sessions. 

What Benefits Can EMDR Have for My Recovery?

EMDR is a well-researched intervention for treating a variety of mental health disorders and symptoms. In addition to trauma and PTSD, EMDR also specializes in treating panic attacks, eating disorders, anxiety, and addictions. It is known to help clients improve their self-esteem as well as reduce cravings for drugs and alcohol. 

Additional benefits of EMDR therapy include:

  • Flexibility in meeting clients where they are in their healing process
  • Reduces the likelihood of re-traumatization when compared to other trauma-focused therapies, such as exposure therapy
  • Helps clients to address and overcome anxious, intrusive, and delusional thoughts
  • Does not require verbal visitation of past trauma
  • Produces effective and fast results
  • Improves perspective of oneself and the world around them
  • Lowered treatment cost due to shortened treatment timeline
  • Strengthens mind-body connection, which can improve cognition

All in all, EMDR is a groundbreaking treatment option that can help individuals at any stage in recovery. However, it is essential to speak with your therapist to know whether this treatment will be the best fit for you.

Unresolved trauma often contributes to the development of mental health and substance use disorders. Effective treatment must work to address unresolved trauma. One particularly useful trauma-focused therapy is known as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR uses bilateral eye movements and tactile stimulation to help retrain maladaptive trauma reactions stored deeply within the brain. 12 South Recovery offers a wide range of treatment programs for individuals seeking recovery from addiction and mental health disorders. We understand the role that trauma often plays in these behavioral struggles, which is why we offer EMDR and other trauma-focused therapies as a part of our programs. For more information about our services, call us today at 866-839-6876.

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