EMDR and Substance Abuse

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EMDR for Substance Abuse

EMDR and Substance Abuse

While there is widespread agreement that addiction is a chronic relapsing disease, the factors that underpin the addiction are so varied that it is difficult to understand why the disease of addiction developed in the first place.  Why does one individual enjoy the ability to abuse a substance recreationally, somehow avoiding chemical dependency, while another finds him or herself in the clutches of addiction?

Although a factor such as genetics can predispose one person to become addicted while another does not, other causal factors are likely at play.  Underlying unresolved emotional pain due to trauma or abuse can fuel the need to use a substance to help manage the uncomfortable feelings associated with these deep-seated issues.  Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other anxiety disorders may cause the individual to rely on using substances in order to self-medicate the pain away.

Eye Movement Desensitizing and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy has been commonly used to treat people struggling with PTSD in recent years.  One of the clinical findings has shown that many of these patients have a co-occurring substance use disorder, and that disorder was also helped via EMDR therapy.  In fact, clinical evidence has demonstrated that EMDR can help patients resolve traumatic memories, which can then quell potential relapse triggers and cravings.  Because of this, the wider use of EMDR and substance treatment is emerging as a viable therapy or adjunct therapy for this dual diagnosis.

EMD and Substance Abuse

About EMDR

One of the hallmarks of PTSD is the inability of the individual to let go of the traumatic event they had experienced.  The trauma is kept front and center in the psyche via flashbacks and nightmares, so the individual attempts to repress the memories, many times turning to alcohol or drugs to accomplish that.  

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EMDR is a treatment that walks the client through an eight-stage process of identifying and then addressing those traumatic experiences that have overwhelmed the client’s ability to cope. Using a therapeutic model based on the adaptive information processing model, which assumes that unhealed traumas can play a significant role in the maladaptive behavior of substance abuse.

During an EMDR session, the client will be asked to follow the therapist’s finger or a moving light with their eyes while simultaneously thinking of the traumatic event.  Then the therapist asks the client to think of a positive memory and to again follow the finger or moving light with his or her eyes. The therapist will have the client switch thoughts back and forth between the trauma and the positive memory during the eye movement therapy, eventually desensitizing the client from the traumatic memory by the end of the eighth step of the process.  The state the client finds themselves in is similar to the REM stage of deep sleep.

EMDR and Substance Abuse and PTSD Treatment

Because the trauma was what instigated the need to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, the need for substance use diminishes as the client becomes desensitized to the traumatic thoughts and memories. EMDR can effectively treat both anxiety disorder and co-occurring substance use disorder.

When EMDR is combined with cognitive behavioral therapy and participation in an addiction recovery support group, it has been found to be highly effective in treating this dual diagnosis. EMDR substance abuse therapy is a short-term, defined treatment modality that can be a great starting point for treating both PTSD and substance abuse.

Capo By the Sea Uses EMDR During Substance Abuse Treatment

Capo By the Sea is a premier addiction and dual diagnosis treatment program located in Southern California.  Capo By the Sea specializes in utilizing EMDR substance abuse for treating both substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders, including PTSD.  Its beachside location and luxury accommodations and amenities may Capo By the Sea a first-rate treatment option for dual diagnosis treatments. For more information about the program, please contact Capo By the Sea today at (888) 529-2114