For years, doctors have been using Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy to help patients heal from trauma in their lives. It’s been particularly common in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, and anxiety. But many health practitioners have found it is also effective in treating drug and alcohol addiction. After all, many patients have found that their addiction was likely caused by underlying conditions, including past trauma. If you or a loved one could benefit from EMDR as part of a drug or alcohol addiction treatment plan, here’s what to expect from the eight-step process.

Phase One

The objective of EMDR is to pinpoint past experiences that may have led to current disorders and addictions, and then replace any related negative thoughts with positive thoughts in order to cope better in stressful situations. For this reason, phase one of EMDR is for the patient and therapist to talk about past trauma to determine which experiences are still having a negative effect today.

Phase Two

The second part of EMDR treatment involves the therapist helping the patient come up with multiple ways of handling the stress that comes from past trauma. In many cases, this includes deep breathing and other techniques for reducing stress in the moment.

Phase Three

In this phase, the therapist will help you determine which specific memories have a negative effect on your mindset. He or she will also assist in figuring out which related components, such as physical reactions to the traumatic memory, are occurring for you.

Phases Four to Seven

Now your therapist will start using EMDR methods to treat the memories that affect you most. When you’re in phase four, you’ll focus on one negative memory at a time, at which point your therapist will ask you to make specific movements with your eyes. Then your therapist will instruct you to clear your mind so it’s blank, and you’ll have a few minutes to observe your feelings at that time. Your therapist will then ask you to focus on the traumatic memory again, gently bringing you back to the present moment if you become too distressed.

When you go through these steps a few times, you should start to let go of some of the negative emotions surrounding traumatic events in your past. Your therapist will repeat these steps as many times as it takes for those negative feelings to start fading. The point of EMDR treatment is to start replacing negative feelings with more positive ones that you can focus on. This way, you can gradually let go of the trauma that may have led to you abusing drugs or alcohol.

Phase Eight

During the last phase of EMDR treatment, your therapist will ask you to assess your progress. He or she will also assess it so you can decide together if you need to go through the process again. Depending on your specific circumstances, your therapist might follow up EMDR treatment with other treatment methods to help you fully heal.

If you think EMDR treatment may be right for you, or if you simply want to learn more about the drug and alcohol treatment options to explore, contact Magnolia Recovery Center today. We offer different treatment plans for drug and alcohol addiction depending on each individual patient, so you can rely on us to get you the help you need.


What is EMDR?