Emotional distress and trauma can have a profound impact on a person’s mental and physical health. Studies show that unresolved trauma is often linked to addiction as many people may use substances to self-medicate or escape difficult emotions. In order to help a person successfully recover, past trauma must be worked through in order to enable healing. This can be incredibly difficult, but because trauma can have a profound impact on a person’s relationships, perception, and overall quality of life, it is essential for recovery. This is where eye movement desensitization and preprocessing (EMDR) therapy comes in.
There are countless therapeutic options utilized in addressing trauma. One form of therapy often used is EMDR, and it is commonly used to address cases of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, addiction, eating disorders, and depression. For those who struggle with revisiting the past, EMDR can address specific memories or experiences without the use of words.
How Does EMDR Work?
EMDR treatment usually takes place over several sessions. Initially, a therapist will meet with a client to assess their history, exploring trauma, and identifying specific traumatic experiences and memories that should be addressed. The therapist will then work with the client to develop healthy coping mechanisms and new methods of addressing emotional or psychological stress. This will be helpful in addressing specific past traumas and helping them manage difficult experiences in the future.
After the initial discovery phase is completed, a therapist will begin using EMDR to address specific memories. Traumatic memories are associated with specific sensations to help you target them and concentrate when revisiting them. As the client focuses on these memories, the therapist will guide the client into performing specific eye movements. After this is complete, the therapist instructs the client to let their mind go blank and focus on the thoughts and feelings they are experiencing in the moment before moving on.
The eye movements a person performs during these sessions are modeled after movements experienced during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Successful sessions help transform a person’s painful memories on an emotional level, allowing them to process difficult memories and shift their mindset. A client’s perception is shifted to focus on positive beliefs and thoughts to offer relief from the negative associations a person typically feels.
The Benefits of EMDR
EMDR therapy is considered to be a safe approach to treatment with few side effects. In some cases, however, a person may experience light-headedness or vivid dreams following a session. This is because EMDR causes heightened awareness that does not immediately end following completion of a session. In most cases, EMDR takes several sessions to produce noticeable changes or effects.
Initially, EMDR can be triggering for clients because they are facing traumatic events head-on with a heightened awareness. This can make therapy incredibly stressful early-on, but over time, it can help clients develop better coping mechanisms. Concerns regarding a client’s response to revisiting trauma should be discussed and explored prior to starting EMDR therapy.
EMDR can be used in conjunction with other forms of therapy and prescription medications. Some find that EMDR therapy enhances the effectiveness of the other recovery tools they use, improving the overall treatment process. EMDR is a valuable tool that can be used in treating co-occurring disorders. It promotes internal healing that can support sobriety long-term. For many, unresolved trauma can be a difficult topic to visit, but it is often what fuels addiction and other dangerous behaviors. While revisiting trauma can produce stress and anxiety, ultimately, addressing it directly can improve a person’s overall sense of well-being, reduce the risk of relapse, and promote healing.
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