Treating Trauma
Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing — EMDR by abbreviation — is a therapeutic method that is extremely beneficial for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse disorders. EMDR was first developed to help alleviate emotional distress related to unresolved traumatic memories. During EMDR therapy clients address traumatic memories while focusing on external stimuli such as flashing lights or vibrating handholds. The individual shifts their visual focus from left to right, left to right, following the pattern of the external stimuli. A licensed and highly experienced EMDR practitioner guides the client through a memory as they practice these lateral eye movements.

This process stimulates the connection between the two hemispheres of the brain, which process different parts of the memory. One half of the brain processes the factual and rational parts of the memory, while the other half processes the emotional feelings of the memory. By stimulating the connection between the two halves of the brain, a client is able to gently process a memory both emotionally and factually, balancing facts with emotions.

This non-invasive and evidence-based technique is widely utilized as part of many comprehensive addiction treatment programs. There is often a direct link between unresolved trauma and substance abuse. At Immersion Recovery Center we employ a range of heavily researched therapies in order to consistently provide our clients with the most comprehensive care available. To learn more about EMDR, or to learn more about our therapeutic recovery program as a whole, contact us today.

About EMDR

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is an eight phase process. It is important to note that one single EMDR session is not going to be effective in helping a person overcome unresolved trauma, which is why EMDR is utilized throughout the residential inpatient, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient stages of treatment.

The Eight Phases of the EMDR Process

  • Phase 1: History taking. During the initial phase of the process the EMDR specialist spends time getting to know the client on a more personal basis. The specialist asks a series of non-invasive questions geared towards learning more about the past trauma. Once the trauma and related triggers are better understood, the therapist and the client work together to map out personalized treatment goals.
  • Phase 2: Preparation. During the second phase of the process the therapist goes over the treatment plan and the treatment goals with the client. The therapist explains what could be causing the symptoms that the client is experiencing, and discusses how these symptoms can be effectively resolved. The therapist goes over a range of techniques that can be employed if the client starts to experience anxiety or any other uncomfortable emotions. These techniques include controlled breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Phase 3: Assessment. The therapist and client work together to identify the target memory without going too deep into detail. First, the client identifies what type of event led to the trauma (for example, the loss of a loved one, a physical assault or abuse that occurred during childhood). The client also identifies what feelings and emotions surround the memory and how the traumatic memory affects the present. The therapist helps the client replace negative thought patterns with positive and productive ways of thinking. For example, replacing the thought “I am worthless” with the thought “I am worthy of recovery.” This positive belief is used throughout the remainder of the process to counteract negative emotions.

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  • Phase 4: Desensitization. During this phase of the process the EMDR treatment actually begins. The client focuses on the target memory while the therapist controls eye movements using bilateral stimulation. Each set of bilateral eye movements lasts for roughly 25 seconds. After each set of movements the client processes how he or she is feeling in the present moment.
  • Phase 5: Installation. During this phase of the process the therapist helps the client focus on one positive belief and install this belief into his or her psyche. This belief will relate directly to the traumatic memory.
    Phase 6: Body scan. During this phase of the treatment process the client carefully evaluates how he or she is feeling in the present moment. Has heart rate or blood pressure been spiked? Is the client feeling uncomfortable or is he or she experiencing high stress levels? Steps 4 and 5 are repeated until all negative feelings subside.
  • Phase 7: Closure. The client is asked to utilize the stress reduction and self-soothing techniques that were taught towards the beginning of the process. It is important that all negative feelings are addressed before the session comes to a close.
  • Phase 8: Re-evaluation. During the final phase of the process the therapist considers how effective the session was and whether or not additional sessions are required. At Immersion Recovery Center we generally provide follow-up sessions regardless of the initial effectiveness of the treatment process to ensure that all traumatic memories are adequately worked through.

Benefits of EMDR

There are numerous benefits of EMDR therapy for both trauma and addiction. These benefits include:

  • Helping clients work through traumatic events and memories that thy might not feel comfortable discussing in a traditional talk therapy setting
  • Helping clients replace negative beliefs about self with healthy and productive ones
  • Teaching clients a variety of self-soothing techniques that they can employ in daily life (these techniques can also help with relapse prevention)
  • Helping prevent invasive and unpleasant symptoms related to unresolved trauma like persistent flashbacks and nightmares
  • Alleviating the physical and psychological symptoms associated with PTSD
  • Improving self-esteem and feelings of self-worth
  • Helping clients work through triggering situations

With the help of EMDR and a range of other cognitive behavioral therapies, clients work through the adverse life events that have been keeping them stuck. They learn to manage their emotions in healthy and productive ways, ultimately helping them overcome addiction and stay sober for years to come.

eye movement desensitization and reprocessing

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The Effectiveness of EMDR

The effectiveness of this particular therapeutic method is extremely well-researched. According to the official EMDR website, “More than 30 positive controlled outcome studies have been done on EMDR therapy. Some of the studies show that 84%-90% of single-trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder after only three 90-minute sessions. Another study, funded by the HMO Kaiser Permanente, found that 100% of the single-trauma victims and 77% of multiple trauma victims no longer were diagnosed with PTSD after only six, 50-minute sessions. In another study, 77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD in 12 sessions. There has been such a wealth of research on EMDR therapy that it is now recognized as an effective form of treatment for trauma and other disturbing experiences by organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization and the Department of Defense.

At Immersion Recovery Center we have seen the effectiveness of this therapy firsthand. Many of our clients who have had little success working through unresolved trauma in a traditional talk therapy setting have benefitted immensely from EMDR.

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At Immersion Recovery Center we believe in a multi-pronged approach to addiction recovery. In addition to employing a range of evidence-based therapies we provide clients with 12-Step program immersion and holistic approaches to treatment. As part of the Guardian Recovery Network (GRN), we hold ourselves to the highest possible clinical standards. GRN has been a leader in substance use disorder treatment with two decades of experience providing a full continuum of care for clients and their families throughout the recovery process. The Immersion Recovery experience was created by top addiction treatment professionals using extensive feedback from clients to create a truly unique and highly effective program. We serve as South Florida’s leading substance use treatment center.

Drug and alcohol addiction can strike anyone, regardless of age, gender, education, or socioeconomic status. Immersion Recovery Center is here to help people redirect themselves out of that negative trajectory and successfully enter a new life free from addiction. To learn more about our program or to get started with our straightforward and uncomplicated admissions process, contact us today.

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