What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapeutic technique developed by psychologist Francine Shapiro, PhD in 1987 and later formally presented as a paper in the Journal of Traumatic Stress (1989).  By discovering that certain eye movements reduce the severity of a wide range of stress disorders (e.g., anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder), EMDR therapy allows individuals to safely release memories of overwhelming emotional experiences from the brain.  As negative thoughts and feelings are released from the neuropsychological system, areas in the mind that have been blocked or constricted are re-integrated in support of maintaining a healthy mind/body balance. Burning Tree offers inpatient EMDR for drug and alcohol at our rehab center.

What is EMDR Used For in Addiction?

Traumatic experiences of the past such as losing a child or experiencing physical abuse play a large role in leading individuals to substance abuse.  Without the benefit of effective coping skills and stress management techniques, many individuals try to deaden their pain with alcohol or drugs as a means to finding relief.  EMDR can safely and effectively bring immediate hope to people who are suffering from relapse and addiction.

EMDR treatment usually asks the patient to focus on the counselor’s finger or a bright light while remembering past traumatic events that are currently intruding into their day to day life and affairs.  This type of treatment is reportedly also helpful in reducing depression and panic attacks.  Patients are allowed to address past traumas and release them by guided eye movement, thereby re-processing old memories in a more detached and less threatening way.

EMDR Treatment Session

Unlike other forms of therapy to respond to a past incident of trauma in clients, EMDR aims to revisit the traumatic experience and accelerate the processing of information by the client. During the session, the therapist introduces images, thoughts and physical sensations to the client. The client, in turn, responds naturally to these forms of stimuli until the incident or memory becomes less frightening or agitating. The goal of the session is to desensitize the client to both the past trauma and the current reminders of it.

Positive Results of EMDR Treatment

Unlocking the negative emotions and memories stored in the nervous system allows clients to process them and release them. Combined with learning new coping skills, this form of treatment can provide lasting results for a person who was previously hampered by the traumatic experience.