Traumatic life events create fears and emotions that adversely affect a person’s mental health. Often times, the aftermath of these events is what leads someone to develop a substance addiction. For many people, talk therapy alone isn’t enough to overcome the trauma associated with these events. To help these people and increase the effectiveness of psychotherapy, medical professionals developed EMDR.

What is EMDR?

woman talks to therapist during emdr therapyEMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It’s an evidence-based treatment that deals with addressing memories and the emotions, visuals, and sensations associated with them. Addressing memories and memory processing is an important part of recovery because they affect the way people respond to stress and similar experiences in the future.

Unprocessed memories and trauma can act like a wall during recovery. If the person’s mental disorders and substance addiction are similar to a wound, then the unprocessed trauma is acting like an infection that is preventing the wound from healing. The idea behind EMDR is that by addressing the memory and associated trauma first, other therapy methods will be smoother and more effective.

How Does it Work?

The goal of the strategies that therapists use in EMDR therapy is to detach the emotions from the memory so that the client can objectively reprocess the event. Once the client’s feelings are disassociated from the memory, the client can recount and process the trauma in a way that doesn’t adversely affect their ideas of self-worth or stress responses. EMDR treatment happens in sessions that focus on three time periods: past, present, and future.

Past. In the first phase, the client and therapist work together to identify memories and current situations that cause the client stress. It’s more useful for the client to focus on experiences that affect their stress-managing skills and behaviors.

In this phase, the client and therapist work together to recount and reprocess the event. The client may focus on specific visual images, negative thoughts about themselves associated with this incident, or other related emotions or sensations.

Present. Once the memory is reprocessed, the client is asked to log any related material that arises in their day-to-day life. This phase helps the client practice self-calming techniques they learned in earlier sessions.

Future. The therapist and client identify any events or situations similar to the one they reprocessed and address how they client can better handle the situation in the future. For people suffering from substance addiction, this will be where they identify how they will respond to the event without resorting to substance abuse.

Who Does Work EMDR For?

EMDR is effective for anyone that suffers from post-traumatic stress or struggles with overcoming residual emotions that they associate with a particular event. The treatment works especially well for people that started abusing substances to cope with a stressful situation. EMDR will not only help the client reprocess that memory, but it will also teach them new and healthier ways to cope with future situations.

Once the memory is no longer holding the client back, other types of therapy (such as psychotherapy) will be significantly more successful and overall recovery will go smoother. If you’re struggling with recovery due to post-traumatic stress, EMDR may be for you.

EMDR Therapy at The Hills Recovery Center

Don’t let addiction or your past control your life. If you struggle with substance addiction and have trouble overcoming post-traumatic stress, contact The Hills Treatment Center in Los Angeles, California. Our accredited facility and expertly trained staff will help you overcome your past and better manage your stress for the future. If you’re ready to regain control of your life, call us at 866-323-4665.