When it comes to addiction treatment, different people respond to different methods. What works for one addict may not be as effective for another. The expansion of technology has resulted in methods of treatment that were probably unheard of decades ago. The possibilities of these new treatments are astounding, and they give added hope on the road to a successful recovery. One such method is EMDR therapy. This type of therapy has found an undeniable relevance and usefulness in addiction treatment. Although it was originally designed to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), many rehabilitation centers are using EMDR as a viable treatment option for addiction patients. While PTSD and addiction may sound like two entirely different problems, they do have certain similarities. These similarities make it possible for both conditions to respond to the same treatment procedure.
Wondering what EMDR is and why many specialists have turned to it as a possible way to tackle the problem of addiction? EMDR is an acronym for Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing. It was discovered in the late 1980s by American psychologist Francine Shapiro, Ph.D. to help tackle Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
EMDR therapy is an advanced technique specifically designed to help the brain recover its natural ability to cope with adverse situations and scenarios. This disorder is usually brought about by unfavorable experiences and occurrences which may or may not be in the control of the patient. Generally, we can define EMDR as a series of systematic left to right eye movements. These can help the brain to permanently eject bad and painful memories. It can also help to curb the urge to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.
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This may sound as though EMDR therapy tries to suppress these negative memories and emotions. However, in actuality, it only makes the brain less sensitive to them. Patients can re-adjust whatever negative information is lingering in their head. They can do this until they attain a stage where they are no longer disruptive psychologically. An EMDR routine could include up to eight phases. These phases form the basis for a reconstruction and an adaptive learning process.
The EMDR Therapy Process
Now that you know what EMDR is, you are probably wondering what actually happens during EMDR. As we established earlier, an EMDR procedure can include up to eight phases. Each treatment phase is unique, but the process usually starts with an examination of the patient’s history, which is then followed by a strategic preparation phase. The next step is the Rapid Eye Movement portion where the patient learns to master the art of thinking positively about him or herself. Here, patients will be required to pick a certain bad memory and focus on it while also identifying the belief system that connects him/her to this bad memory. The memory could be anything ranging from bad childhood memories, experiences of rape or sexual assault, or other traumatic events.
Success with this phase then moves the patient on to identify a positive belief about himself/herself. As this is being done, everything that goes along with this belief, including emotions and physical conditions, are taken note of. Once this is done, the individual then focuses on this good memory while being stimulated by a side to side movement which acts as an external stimulus. The therapist may create this external stimulus by moving their finger in a rhythmic manner from side to side. After each successful side to side movement, the therapist consults with the patient to find out how he or she feels. This process is repeated over and over again until the bad memory no longer has a disruptive effect on the patient.
Learning How to Process Memories Differently
Thanks to the bilateral side to side eye movement, the new positive belief or memory is installed to replace the negative one. This is possible because the brain is now viewing the traumatic memory with both hemispheres of the brain. Generally, most EMDR sessions last for about an hour. In short terms, EMDR therapy is effective because of the bilateral stimulation, which overlooks the portion of the brain that magnifies the trauma and moves to the part that allows the left brain to soothe the right side. Gradually the patient learns to view and process memories in a way that will only lead to a peaceful state.
EMDR Therapy and How It Can Treat Addiction
It is not a popular perception, but trauma plays a big role in most addiction etiology. This is why EMDR therapy has found a useful application in the treatment of addictions. Also, addictions situations have huge connections with PTSD, in fact, most addicts are commonly diagnosed with a PTSD condition. This is why many addiction sufferers choose EMDR therapy as a viable treatment option.
EMDR therapy for addiction is not a simple procedure. Its standard eight-phase technique explained earlier is evidence that it is not a quick fix, either. Since trauma is part of the basis for which addiction results, it is only natural to expect EMDR therapy to be a treatment path to follow. Most people feel EMDR is simply the art of a specialist waving a finger right in the face of a patient. Well, on the outside it may seem that simple, but the process involves much more than that. The phases of the EMDR process stabilize the patient. They also help him/her build internal resources required the phases to come. Success with these phases prepares the patient for trauma reprocessing phases of the therapy.
This treatment process helps patients to deal with their addiction but they gain so much more from the overall procedure. Patients learn new and healthier ways to deal with past painful experiences. Individuals such as these develop a new but healthy life which also helps with a long lasting addiction management skill. Though EMDR therapy is not 100% efficient, it sets you on a unique addiction treatment path. This is also accompanied by the development of a better version of yourself. And hopefully, you will have the tools you need to combat both past and future traumatic situations.
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