When it comes to helping a patient struggling with addiction find new life in sobriety, we explore numerous treatment options to find the modalities that work best for each patient. One of those modalities that is relatively new to the area of addiction recovery is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing or EMDR. This treatment method is particularly helpful to those that have experienced traumatic events leading to post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

The Connection between Addiction and Trauma

There is a close connection between addiction and traumatic events, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs, National Center for PTSD. The office cited the following statistics:

  • Three-fourths of individuals that experienced trauma involving violence develop alcohol addiction
  • Eighty percent of Vietnam War vets have struggled with both PTSD and alcohol addiction
  • Around one-third of those who survived a traumatic illness, injury or disaster develop an alcohol addiction

Traumatic events can lead to feelings and fears much too intense for an individual to deal with on their own. Many will turn to drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication to deal with those issues. Because the connection between traumatic events and addiction is so high, EMDR may be helpful in treating a number of patients in substance abuse recovery programs.

What is EMDR?

EMDR is a special therapy developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s. The treatment works on the theory that memories of traumatic events are not processed normally by the brain. Instead, they are locked away, where they can interfere with healthy functioning and lead to feeling of extreme stress and fear. EMDR is designed to help the patient process and transform those memories to relieve the stress associated with them.

How it Works

EMDR sessions typically last 60-90 minutes. At the beginning of the session, eye movement exercises are initiated by the therapist, which are often accompanied by taps on the hand or audible tones. It is these seemingly simple, repetitive exercises that provide an environment that allows painful memories to safely surface so the patient can process them in a healthy manner. The process is performed over multiple treatment sessions, but in the end, patients are often able to become desensitized to the trauma and stress associated with those memories.

EMDR is just one of the many treatment options provided at West Coast Recovery Centers. Our treatment approach is highly customized to the specific needs of each patient, so that we can directly address the issues behind the addiction and help the patient find the path to better mental health and sobriety. To learn more about EMDR or the other treatment modalities used at West Coast Recovery Centers, contact a member of our staff at 442-333-6199.

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