Get ready for a tongue twister.
We’ve got a new and powerful therapy module in town that you may or may not have heard of. EMDR, short for “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing” is a recently new method of healing that is making its way into rehabilitation centers and private practice offices. Having been studied immensely, EMDR is now considered a new and effective approach to drug and alcohol abuse as well as co-occurring trauma’s and abuse histories.
What is EMDR?
Eye Movement and Desensitization and Reprocessing (try to say that ten times) is an extremely powerful eight-phase psychotherapy developed to treat disturbing life experiences as well as other psychological problems. Developed in the late 1980’s by Dr. Francine Shapiro; who made a chance observation that eye movements can reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts.
In laymen’s terms, I’ve humorously heard of EMDR as a “light-show,” as you follow a neon-colored light bar back and forth with your eyes, however to maximize individual needs and effects, not every therapist incorporates a light bar. Some therapists tap their fingers, use sound, etc. This approach uses bilateral stimulation to target “stuck” and dysfunctional stored memories than can often be causes of emotional distress or negative behaviors.
But on a serious note, studies show that by using EMDR therapy, people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. Some studies have shown that 84%-90% of single trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder after only three 90-minute sessions. There has been extensive research on EMDR and it’s effects on the brain. Talk about manna from heaven!
How can this help me and recovery?
EMDR approaches symptoms that go hand in and with drug and alcohol abuse, as well as other co-occurring traumas and abuse histories, and there has been many adaptions to this. If an addict wasn’t traumatized in their younger years, then they almost inevitably have traumatic experiences as part of their consequences of their using. EMDR can also help relapse prevention while alleviating any underlying issues or symptoms.
Some of these symptoms can include:
- Intrusive thoughts
- Feeling detached
- Angry outbursts
I have a friend who is a certified EMDR and addiction therapist. I was curious to bend his ear about what got him involved in EMDR:
“I noticed that some of my clients were not responding to traditional talk therapy and were stuck from past traumas. I needed a way to help them address and resolve these issues and I remembered a presentation at a conference by the founder, so I signed up for a training. I was still a bit skeptical on how this could help, but I kept an open mind and went for it. As I saw the positive results firsthand in my clients, I was convinced of its effectiveness and have been using it with clients ever since.”
What should I expect?
First off, you’ll learn a little more than to just bat your eyes. You’ll learn about physical and emotional reactions to trauma as well as some coping skills to deal with it. While in a session, you may feel a bit uncomfortable when focusing on trauma-related memories. You’ll hold whatever disturbing memory or trauma in your mind and almost pretend as if you’re watching a high-speed ping pong match as you move your eyes back and forth, until the distress goes down. You’ll incorporate the memory, negative thought and body sensation and incorporate a new feeling associated with the experience. It is almost like you’re un-burying the memory and putting it back in a safe place where it doesn’t feel so disturbing; in other words, processing it.
But like some say, “don’t quit before the miracle happens,” because the uncomfortable feelings are usually brief and people tend to feel better as they keep doing it. After you go through the disturbing memory, you’ll formulate a positive belief that you want about yourself, then use the bilateral eye-stimulation technique once again. The benefits can usually outweigh the initial discomforts and eventually the goal is for you to have a peaceful resolution. Count me in!
I was also curious about how using EMDR can help from a first-hand experience, so I asked my therapist friend in the field. He stated:
“Although EMDR can be quick, it is not a quick fix, which I’ve found a lot of people are looking for. Any type of healing takes time. This therapy takes a lot of preparation to let the client learn about trauma as well as their addiction to fully get the most benefit. There’s a common misconception that EMDR is waving a finger in front of someone’s face, but it is more about stabilization and building internal resources. I’ve seen many people change throughout this process.”
EMDR is now an approved treatment for PTSD by the Department of Defense, Veterans Administration, Wealth Health Organizations, and the American Psychiatric Association, and it’s rapidly gaining popularity as time goes on. If you haven’t grabbed a hold of this therapy, it can do nothing but benefit you. Make sure you find a therapist that is certified in EMDR and if you’re looking for treatment centers that offer it, you can do so here.