Treatment Modalities

EMDR and Addiction Recovery

By | Treatment Modalities | No Comments

How EMDR is effectively used in the treatment of Addiction

by Mary Christie

At Novation we use several different approaches to tailor psychotherapy to the needs of the individual client.  One method available is EMDR.  Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma.  As a trained and certified EMDR therapist, I’ve been using it successfully with clients for over 10 years.  I was drawn to it for several reasons: it is safe and effective, it addressed the core issues that underlie mental health disorders (and addictions) and it is respectful to the timing and the needs of the client.  Some clients improve dramatically, some subtly over a period of time, and none have experienced negative side effects to the point that it has impeded treatment.  

I like the fact that that it has an 8-phased approach and a standardized protocol.  During the first session, I take a client’s history and ask questions about incidents that may have caused the client to hold onto negative beliefs about themselves or the world.  This enables myself and the client to target areas that would be most effective in providing the client relief from symptoms of depression, PTSD, anxiety, and triggers to addictions.  

During the next phase the clients learn how to visualize a safe place based on memory (or they can make one up).  We add the 5 senses to this visualization, and it provides the client with an experience of deep safety and centeredness.  This is to ensure that should the client become overly disturbed during the active phase of EMDR, we can stop and visualize the safe place so as to return to stability.  Clients have control over the pacing of EMDR, and can stop and start as needed.    

During the active phase, we target one issue or memory, and when ready (after some initial questions) the client closes their eyes and focuses on the beeps and buzzing.  The client wears a headset that provides alternating left-right beeps, and holds “tappers” in their hands that provide a slight buzzing feeling, left-right.  This alternating creates bilateral stimulation in the brain, which helps to process old memories to completion.  Sometimes emotions come up, sometimes they don’t, and the client can stop the process at any time. This goes on for about 30-40 beeps, we then stop and the client shares what came up during the beeps. We then pick something to focus on next, and keep going for another 20- 30 minutes.  

I’ll share what happens during the end phases of EMDR in my next blog.  Stay tuned!

Mary Christie