When we sleep, our brains operate in cycles that control our dreams, and our ability to move during some stages! When a person experiences the Rapid Eye Movement stage, their dreams can often bring up bits and pieces of flashbacks or memories from the past. Those who have endured trauma, suffer from PTSD, or struggle with addiction frequently find themselves reliving the bad parts of their lives vividly and inescapably.
EMDR is a form of therapy developed to help deal with these memories, which can be the cause for addiction, in a productive way.
What is EMDR?
During EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, therapists will go through an event that has happened in their patient’s life, detail by detail. While their brains search for these images inside the mind, the therapist will use visual cues to help the eyes mimic the movement that occurs during REM. The difference is that since the person is awake and aware of what’s happening, they have more control over the emotional response that surfaces during these EMDR sessions.
How Does EMDR Work?
EMDR therapy is somewhat of an extensive process, it doesn’t require medication or anesthetic, but it does need to be done in multiple sessions. The first few involve your therapist getting to know a little bit more about you. This would include your history of trauma, drug use, and learning a little more about your coping mechanisms.
Once this portion of your sessions is completed, you’ll move onto the part where you actually get the experience EMDR treatment. Your therapist will help you select up to 3 separate memories that have negatively impacted you. While you focus intently on these memories, your therapist will perform visual stimulation for your eyes to follow at the same time.
You’ll continue this process as long as needed, then your therapist will ask you to clear your thoughts and create an empty space in your mind. At this time, you’ll need to focus on any feelings left behind from the imagery of the memory you developed.
You may need to undergo the actual EMDR therapy a few different times, as the first couple of sessions may prove to be too intense initially. If you start to experience extreme anxiousness or severe emotional discomfort while recalling old memories, your therapist will bring you back to the present moment.
The goal is to reduce the distress that these thoughts create and to find a more productive way to cope.
How Does It Treat Addiction
Those who struggle with addiction issues often use substances to not only deal with the everyday stressors that life comes with but also to push away the bad things that have happened to them in life. Experiencing something like abuse, loss of a loved one, a life-altering injury, and other forms of trauma can trigger powerful emotions of sadness, guilt, doubt, depression, and in some cases suicidal thoughts.
In turn, addicts try to cover up or ignore these feelings through substance abuse; they might have gone away for the moment, but once the high is over those emotions will still be there.
EMDR treatment allows our patients to take a closer look at the root of the problem. As for some people, it may not be the actual drug they desire, but a distraction from a past experience that creates that overwhelming, anxious response that they need relief from.
How Effective is EMDR?
Although it is still a relatively new treatment, EMDR has been proven to effectively treat substance abuse without using rapid detox or another medication to wean patients off. In a study conducted with 32 participants, 68% confirmed that EMDR treatment was successful in reducing symptoms of depression.
Those who choose to undergo sessions are more likely to stick to their sobriety, and stay involved with the program.
There are some side effects to this treatment though, and patients often need time to decompress and relax once it has ended. At this time, emotions, self-awareness, and awareness of their surroundings is greatly enhanced. During the REM cycle of sleep, they might also experience very realistic dreams in response to the EMDR treatment. This after-effect won’t last forever, but they should be taken into consideration.
Take action now! The longer it takes to make an appointment and finish the consultation portion of EMDR, the longer it’ll take to recover! If you or a loved one has been struggling with substance abuse or PTSD, it’s time to call Southern California Addiction Center. We can give you the information, but it is entirely up to you to make the decision to move forward with your therapy.
We all need help sometimes, and that’s okay. Call or send us an email today, we’re waiting to hear from you!
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If you or you’re loved one is in need of help with addiction, contact us today. Our team is standing by, ready and willing to talk about your problems, and help you find the best solution.