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EMDR - How It Really Works

How Does EMDR Work?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, also known as EMDR, is a psychotherapy treatment originally designed to treat those diagnosed with PTSD. EMDR uses a three-pronged approach — the past events that have laid the groundwork for dysfunction, current circumstances that elicit distress, and adaptive functioning for the future. This treatment allows for the emotions surrounding that memory to be reprocessed, creating new, positive associations to attach to the specific event that took place.

With this therapy technique, the traumatic memory is accessed via therapists using external stimuli. It has been proven that there is a correlation between someone’s eye movements and the association of a traumatic memory. This is why therapists most commonly use lateral eye movements as the stimulus that taps into the memory. Other external stimuli that have proven to be effective are hand-tapping and the use of different audios.

The Eight Phases of EMDR

EMDR treatment consists of eight phases. During the first phase, the therapist assesses the client’s readiness and develops a treatment plan. Together, the client and therapist will identify target memories for EMDR processing. Reprocessing a traumatic memory can cause negative emotion, which is why the second phase includes the therapist and the client establishing healthy coping mechanisms to prepare for any incidents of emotional distress.

In phases three through six, a memory is identified and processed. The client will identify a visual image related to the memory, a negative belief about him or herself, and any related emotions. The client also identifies a positive belief that the memory eventually becomes associated with. Throughout these phases, the therapist uses bilateral stimulation as the client focuses on the targeted memory and beliefs.

During phase seven, the client is instructed to keep a log during the week of any emotions, triggers, or dreams that may occur before the next session. The next session begins with the last phase, phase eight. The last phase includes examining all progress that has been made.

Is EMDR Effective?

Many studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of EMDR. Some studies have concluded that 84-90% of single-trauma victims no longer have PTSD after only three 90-minute long sessions. Another study has proven that 77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD in 12 sessions.

Because of its effectiveness, EMDR is becoming a more commonplace treatment option in most facilities and clinics.

How Can EMDR Help Treat Addiction?

Co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders are extremely common. In fact, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.5 million American adults experienced both a mental illness and a substance use disorder in 2019. There is no evidence as to which disorder develops first. Some use substances as a coping mechanism to treat their mental illness, while others develop a mental illness as a result of their substance abuse.

A lot of addiction is tied to past trauma. By treating the mental illness with EMDR, it is proven that the person suffering from addiction will have less compulsive behaviors and cravings for their substance of choice.

Learn More About Treatment Options At Cedar Oaks Wellness Center

Our addiction professionals are here to help. If you or a loved one is interested in learning more about EMDR and the other treatment programs at Cedar Oaks Wellness Center, call (513) 780-5201.