At StoneRidge Centers, we incorporate EMDR therapy as part of our comprehensive evidence-based treatment programs to help our clients manage the challenges associated with mental health and addiction issues.
What is EMDR and How Does it Work?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, better known as EMDR, is frequently used as an effective therapy to alleviate negative feelings associated with traumatic memories. Originally designed to treat mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, and PTSD, EMDR has more recently become known as an effective therapy to treat substance and alcohol use disorders.
Trauma can cause an imbalance in how the brain processes information, triggering the brain to embed negative emotions surrounding particular events or experiences. EMDR therapy works to unblock these emotions, allowing them to be processed, enabling participants to heal. Patients find EMDR enables them to achieve a new, more positive perspective surrounding these traumatic memories.
Although EMDR is a form of “talk” therapy, it is nontraditional in that it deals with the negative emotions stemming from the trauma rather than the traumatic experience itself. In a guided mental process, patients recall negative emotions at the same time as a specially trained therapist directs the patient in rapid side-to-side eye movement.
The theory is that the rapid movement of the eyes connects both the right and left hemispheres of the brain, working to unblock and desensitize the traumatic memory. The goal of EMDR exercises is to replace the troubling memory and emotions with more positive, empowering beliefs.
Not only does EMDR effectively reprogram negative emotional associations, it can deliver impressive results over a relatively short period of time.
How Effective is EMDR Therapy?
Dr. Francine Shapiro, known as the founder of EMDR, cites several studies supporting the therapy’s efficacy in her article, The Role of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy in Medicine: Addressing the Psychological and Physical Symptoms Stemming from Adverse Life Experiences, published in the Permanente Journal.
In the article, Shapiro discusses twenty-four randomized controlled trials which “support the positive effects of EMDR therapy in the treatment of emotional trauma and other adverse life experiences.” Findings of the studies include:
- 7 of 10 studies reported EMDR therapy to be more rapid or more effective than trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Twelve randomized studies of the eye movement component noted rapid decreases in negative emotions or vividness of disturbing images.
- Eight studies reported a variety of other positive memory effects.
Just as EMDR enables the brain to release physical and emotional manifestations connected to disturbing memories, it can also help resolve triggers associated with addictive behavior.
Can EMDR Help Treat Dual Diagnosis?
The 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported over 9 million adults ages 18 and over had both a mental disorder and a substance use disorder. The presence of both disorders is known as a dual diagnosis, or co-occurring disorder. For successful long-term recovery, all co-occurring disorders must be treated simultaneously. EMDR therapy facilitates that goal with its integrative approach to treatment of both addiction and mental health challenges.
EMDR and Addiction Treatment
EMDR focuses on helping understand, manage, and resolve traumatic memories. Because there is often a strong link between addiction and trauma, EMDR can also play a role in helping understand emotional triggers for addictive behavior.
The relationship between addiction and trauma, especially childhood trauma, has been well documented. A study published in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine found those who experienced childhood trauma such as “abuse, neglect, the loss of a parent, witnessing domestic or other physical violence, and having a family member who suffers from a mental illness” had up to 12 times the risk for an alcohol or substance use disorder, depression, and suicide attempts than those without such childhood experiences.
Trauma related to addiction not only occurs in childhood. Events like a natural disaster, assault, rape, robbery, war, and others can happen at any age and may trigger mental disorders including addiction. Sometimes the addiction happens first, which may lead to a traumatic experience like rape or another form of violence. No matter which occurs first, when trauma and addiction are both present, both must be treated simultaneously. EMDR can help with this treatment process.
EMDR Therapy at StoneRidge Centers
StoneRidge incorporates EMDR into our patients’ treatment plans when they share a history of trauma and present challenges associated with traumatic memories. While there is no specific number of sessions required for patients, trauma is individually held and typically takes several sessions to process. Our clinicians have seen positive change in as little as 3 to 5 sessions. EMDR may elicit an emotional response, so every session ends by returning patients to a safe and calm state using centering techniques.
Contact StoneRidge Centers to learn more about EMDR Therapy or any of our other evidence based treatment programs we utilize to help each of our clients heal the damage caused by mental health and addiction challenges.
Innovative, Evidence-Based Therapies
Because mental health and addiction concerns are so often interconnected, we utilize research-based approaches with evidence-based outcomes that promote overall healing and recovery.