Understanding EMDR Therapy

Are You Struggling with Trauma?

As an acronym, EMDR stands or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. As a therapy, it is a modernized nontraditional technique designed to help patients process trauma. 

This article discusses trauma, substance use, and PTSD. Additionally, this article mentions physical and sexual assault, and may be triggering to some readers.

Reader’s discretion is advised.

Call now to ask questions about treatment for yourself or a loved one. Our helpline is free and confidential. Call (888) 906-0952

Table of Contents

What is EMDR Therapy?

To understand EMDR treatment, understanding what EMDR is must come first. Furthermore, EMDR’s popularity is growing, particularly for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

PTSD often occurs after an individual experiences military combat, physical assault, sexual assault, car accidents, and other traumatic experiences.

When you first look, EMDR unusually approaches psychological issues. This therapy does not rely on talk therapy or medication. Instead, EMDR uses the patient’s rapid eye movements to dampen the intensity of traumatic events.

Using EMDR, you can work through the negative emotions connected to any past trauma you have endured throughout your life. Self-medicating is often a way to cope when you do not know any other way to cope with your past trauma.

However, learning how to live instead of just surviving offers you the opportunity to break the cycle of addiction and have a happy, safe, productive life.

Whatever you have gone through does not have to define you. Your past, however violent it may have been, is a part of you but is not who you are. Let us help you break that cycle; together, we can find the real you.

Call us at (405)583-4390, so we can find the best EMDR specialist for you and the program that will continue to help you in all areas along the way.

By understanding what EMDR is, you have the opportunity to become who you want to be.

All You Need To Know

EMDR is a relatively safe and effective therapy. Therefore, organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Psychiatric Association (APA) recommend it for people with PTSD.

Francine Shapiro, an American psychologist, developed EMDR therapy in the late 1980s. Rapid eye movement therapy was initially used to treat individuals with traumatic memories but is now successful in treating phobias, PTSD, anxiety, chronic pain, and depression.

The treatment consists of eight phases. During these phases, people recall traumatic experiences while moving their eyes back and forth. Then, the therapist will direct the rapid eye movement therapy.

The purpose is to allow people to process and integrate these traumatic memories with their standard memories, removing the significance and horror of the trauma.

The theory is that remembering times of distress while distracted is less upsetting. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is another PTSD treatment that is similar but without distraction.

It does involve remembering or discussing the traumatic event to identify and alter the thoughts. The processes for both are called exposure and cognition.

Traumatic memories make changes in the brain. These changes stop the mind from processing information correctly, which is the cause of anxiety and intrusive, upsetting thoughts about the trauma.

While recalling traumatic events during rapid eye movement therapy, the brain can reprocess the memory. EMDR treatment also treats symptoms that accompany traumatic experiences, such as self-harm, stress, and anger.

Practitioners today use it to treat many other conditions and issues, including the following:

  • addiction
  • anxiety
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • chronic and phantom pain
  • depression
  • eating disorders
  • panic attacks
  • psychotic symptoms
  • self-esteem issues
  • stress-induced flare-ups of skin problems

Beginning research supports its application for some of these issues. Sometimes, people may choose to do EMDR therapy alongside other treatment options for the best overall results.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit dolor

These might also interest you… 

The Eight Phases

Phase 1: Client History and Treatment Planning
  • The therapist evaluates the individual’s case, including his ability to tolerate exposure to distressing memories. Therapists will then create the treatment plan based on the individual’s symptoms and behaviors that need modifying.
Phase 2: Preparation
  • Initial consultation establishes a therapeutic relationship with the client and provides education on EMDR therapy. The therapist will also teach the person self-control techniques, which are ways to cope with distressing memories that arise.
Phase 3: Assessment
  • The individual will choose an image to represent each memory, noting the negative beliefs and physical sensations that accompany these memories. The patient will then identify a positive thought to replace the negative beliefs.
Phase 4: Desensitization
  • Desensitization involves reducing the individual’s upsetting reactions to the traumatic memory, including physical sensations they have when thinking of it. These may include a rapid heart rate, sweating, or stomach problems. Desensitization happens by the therapist facilitates rapid eye movements while focusing on the traumatic event.
Phase 5: Installation
  • The focus is to install positive thoughts the individual identified in phase 3.
Phase 6: Body Scan
  • A meditative technique in which a person scans his body from head to toe to notice the physical sensations. During EMDR, the therapist will target these physical sensations for further processing.
Phase 7: Closure
  • Each session will end with the therapist stabilizing the client using the self-control techniques discussed in phase 2.
Phase 8: Reevaluation
  • Review conduction takes place for the best treatment effect and to check out additional targets and traumatic memories.

EMDR and Substance Use Disorder Therapy

Many individuals with substance use disorder (SUD) struggle with an inability to cope with emotions from a traumatic event.

Because of this, drugs and alcohol become a way for the individual to escape distress or discomfort. Unfortunately, those traumatic events include childhood abuse and neglect.

PTSD is a mental health disorder after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event.

Some traumatic events that can cause PTSD are:

  • War
  • Physical or sexual assault
  • Serious accidents
  • Sudden loss
  • Natural disasters
  • Physical, emotional, or mental abuse

Some symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Emotional numbness or outbursts
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Trauma avoidance
  • Panic attacks
  • Insomnia

The increase of developing PTSD symptoms in adulthood comes from chronic emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and neglect in childhood. Often, the childhood trauma is from home in constant crisis because one or both parents are struggling with addiction.

Unfortunately, many individuals fail to realize their unrealized trauma contributes to their SUD.
The bottom line is that individuals who have experienced trauma are a significant factor in developing a SUD.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy can help someone cope with their trauma, provide life coping skills, and maintain their mental health.

The brain and emotional body appear to work similarly to wound healing. In other words, they both can heal and give off warning signs of an infection. EMDR therapy helps clear any trauma-processing blocks and brings mental and emotional relief.

What the Research Tells You

EMDR therapy delivered to individuals experiencing an immediate and intense mental health crisis shows significant improvement in the individual’s likelihood of having continued problems.

Most individuals receiving EMDR therapy take less than ten sessions to cope with the traumatic event entirely. Excitingly, this provides an individual with the tool to move forward and leave the past behind while learning effective coping strategies as life progresses.

This technique has prevented admissions into mental health hospitals, reduced anxiety-related medical issues, decreased suicidal thoughts, cost savings, and reduced drug use.

Most participants in EMDR treatment required less than ten sessions to improve their emotional and physical responses to their trauma significantly.

For example, anxiety levels lowered by more than 50 percent, and post-intervention was down by more than 75 percent.

Lessened PTSD, depression, and suicidality are also an excellent reward for the hard work of EMDR therapy.

This technique allows individuals to:

  • Manage their lives better
  • Provide emotional stability
  • Remove the need for drugs and alcohol to cope
  • Invite personal growth opportunities.

Overall, the research supports a trauma-focused approach as an intervention, suggesting EMDR therapy as a recommended treatment to reduce PTSD, suicidal ideations, anxiety and depression, and trauma.

Moving forward, the actual implementation of EMDR treatment for SUDs and many other devastating issues is critical.

Continued Success

EMDR is currently mainly intended to treat PTSD from a traumatic event. However, although this therapy is in the infant stage compared to treatment like CBT, EMDR is also effective in other areas.

EMDR treatment prevents avoidance and promotes growth in a positive direction for you.

As many as 90 percent of trauma survivors have no PTSD symptoms after just three sessions: some as many as twenty. Each person is different and is affected differently by EMDR.

Most importantly, your well-being and healing are the priority. Not only is EMDR shown to be effective immediately, but it also has shown its benefits to persist over time.

Of course, not everyone seeking help for a substance use disorder is a candidate for EMDR. It is an intense therapy that takes an average of eight sessions to heal compared to years when just talking it through effectively. A good example is driving a car representing your healing at about 100 miles per hour.

The best individuals for EMDR participating in SUD treatment are:

  • People ready to work through trauma
  • People who are committed to staying the duration of the treatment
  • People who are mentally and emotionally stable.

This therapy is done in conjunction with traditional SUD treatment and should be considered a supplemental approach. With EMDR therapy, the ability of the mind to heal and process information is impressive.

The transformation you could have from depression, anxiety, and drug and alcohol use to suppress memories and emotions to quick insights and positive thinking could be fantastic.

There is a program for you that will bring on this transformation. Help yourself reach your dreams by calling us today at (405)583-4390. We are here to help you start your journey to positivity and success!


[1] Finding Rehab for Complex PTSD and Substance Use Disorder (SUD)-abtrs.com

[2] Veterans and Substance Abuse-abtrs.com

[3] EMDR therapy: Benefits, effectiveness, and side effects (medicalnewstoday.com)

[4]Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: A Conceptual Framework – PMC (nih.gov)

[5] Self-Medicating to Cope with Trauma: How EMDR Therapy Can Help in Substance Abuse Treatment | For Better | US News

Have Questions About Addiction Treatment? Give us a call at (888) 906-0952

Share on Social:



Susana is an addiction and recovery life expert and has over 7 years of recovery from drug and alcohol addiction that nearly claimed her life. It's her number one goal to provide educational resources to help those who are struggling with addiction find their way out.


These might also interest you… 

Social Media

Most Popular

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter

New articles about addiction, treatment, and recovery sent directly to you! 


Related Posts

finding addiction treatment lgbtq

Seeking Help for Teen Addiction

Reading Time: 7 minutes A guide crafted for a particularly resilient yet vulnerable group – those who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community and are grappling with addiction challenges.

Read More »
choosing a faith based drug rehab

Choosing Faith-Based Rehab for Addiction

Reading Time: 4 minutes Choosing the right drug rehab center is a crucial decision that could greatly impact your recovery journey. For many individuals, faith-based rehab programs offer a unique approach to overcoming addiction that combines traditional therapy with spiritual guidance. If you’re considering this option, here are some key points to guide your decision-making process.

Read More »

Get help and rebuild your life.

Recovery Starts Today

Drug and alcohol treatment is available for all financial situations. Insurance, medicaid, medicare, no insurance, more. Call now!