There are many different ways to overcome addiction. For instance, a number of people swear by support groups and twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous; however, support groups aren’t the best choice for everyone. In fact, even though every person’s needs are unique to him or her, most of the current evidence points to inpatient care being the most effective form of treatment, giving patients the best odds of achieving lasting sobriety. As such, our inpatient drug rehab in Utah offers care that consists of the latest and most proven forms of therapy, including a type of treatment called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy.
But what is EMDR Therapy? How is it used in the treatment of addiction and substance abuse disorders? How does it work? And, perhaps most importantly, is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy actually effective in treating addiction? Let’s find out.
What is EMDR Therapy?
When we consider the types of therapy that are commonly associated with substance abuse and addiction, many of us immediately think of psychotherapy or perhaps group therapy. After all, the image that many individuals get when thinking of someone at an alcohol or drug rehab is of a patient who’s participating in some type of group therapy session or who is in a one-on-one “talk therapy” session with a counselor. But there are actually numerous types of therapy used for both addiction and numerous psychological and emotional disorders.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy — often referred to simply as EMDR Therapy for short — was developed after an accidental discovery made in the 1980s. During research, psychologists realized that patients who would move their eyes in certain deliberate ways would exhibit a reduction in the intensity of disturbing thoughts and mental imagery; in other words, patients who experienced unpleasant thoughts could alleviate the effects of these thoughts through the calculated movement of their eyes. This discovery was soon verified in a study of trauma victims.
Francine Shapiro — a psychological researcher who’s credited with the development of EMDR Therapy — realized that her eyes would move rapidly and involuntarily anytime she experienced disturbing thoughts. By bringing her eye movements under her conscious control, she noticed some relief in the negative symptoms associated with the disturbing imagery. Specifically, upon limiting and channeling the movement of her eyes, there was a noticeable reduction in stress and anxiety that had been caused by the disturbing thoughts and mental imagery.
How Does EMDR Therapy Work?
It’s important to realize that despite the fact that EMDR Therapy focuses on eye movement, the ultimate goal of this form of treatment is to alter how an individual processes the experiences that are contributing to psychological and emotional distress. Further, EMDR Therapy is meant to help patients acquire new ways of processing those stimuli in healthier and more productive ways.
If you are receiving EMDR treatment at our inpatient drug rehab in Utah, you should know there are several phases involved with this form of treatment. The first phase sees the therapist getting acquainted with the patient, learning his or her history so as to identify any possible catalysts for psychological or emotional distress. In other words, the therapist wants to identify and target whatever is causing disturbing thoughts and/or mental imagery. With those catalysts targeted, the therapist can develop a treatment plan and a tentative schedule for treatment.
Prior to beginning actual EMDR sessions, as a precaution, the therapist will provide strategies to the patient that would help him or her to overcome intense anxiety and stress in the event that the patient were to experience sudden and intense psychological distress during a session. During the actual treatment sessions, the patient is confronted with stimuli that evoke disturbing thoughts or mental imagery, then guided through certain eye movements — or possibly auditory or tactile instruction — that essentially splits the patient’s attention from whatever it is that’s causing distress. The idea is that splitting the individual’s attention from the stimulus through the use of deliberate eye movement will eventually result in the individual experiencing much less distress whenever confronted with these thoughts or imagery.
EMDR Therapy as Addiction Treatment
Although there are many reasons why a person may develop a substance abuse problem, one of the most common is the use of alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism. Oftentimes individuals who use alcohol or drugs to cope have experienced some type of trauma in the past; for instance, it’s quite common for victims of violent or sexual abuse to turn to alcohol or drugs as a means of coping with the psychological and emotional distress resulting from the trauma. As such, there is a high number of individuals who suffer from addiction who have been victims of some type of trauma in the past.
EMDR Therapy has historically been used to treat victims of trauma. Since the prior trauma becomes a catalyst for psychological and emotional distress, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy helps these individuals to reduce the distress they experience when provoked by thoughts of their prior traumas. And since so many individuals who suffer from addiction have experienced past trauma, it follows that EMDR Therapy would have immense value as part of addiction treatment, which is why we offer EMDR Therapy at our inpatient drug rehab in Utah.
Does EMDR Therapy Actually Work?
Since every person responds differently to each type of treatment, it’s difficult to say definitively whether any given person will achieve as optimal results from EMDR Therapy as the last individual; however, research has shown that many individuals who receive EMDR Therapy have experienced a notable reduction in the negative symptoms associated with past trauma and similar negative experiences. The use of EMDR Therapy has proven to reduce much of the intensity of anxiety and distress caused by thoughts and imagery related to past trauma. For this reason, EMDR remains a prominent treatment offering at our inpatient drug rehab in Utah.