Bilateral Stimulation: How EMDR Can Aid Addiction Recovery

EMDR seems to be everywhere lately. This innovative treatment modality uses bilateral stimulation and is getting more and more recognition lately for the healing it can offer for those facing trauma, stress, PTSD, or addiction.

Consider some statistics – 75% of people undergoing addiction treatment report a history of trauma. According to researchers, the risk for substance abuse rises by as much as four times for people who experienced trauma early in life. For those who experienced multiple or repeated traumatic events—this risk can rise tenfold.

There appears to be a correlation between trauma, PTSD, and the potential for substance abuse. Because these two issues are so closely intertwined, treating substance abuse without addressing underlying trauma is often incomplete. Thankfully, several time-tested therapeutic interventions can help. Here, we’ll look into EMDR – a helpful modality utilizing bilateral stimulation for those seeking healing and recovery

What is EMDR?

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of therapy that involves moving your eyes in a specific way while you process traumatic memories, and aims to help you heal from trauma or other distressing life experiences. This modality uses bilateral stimulation to aid in the healing process. Although EMDR is relatively new, dozens of clinical trials since its development show this technique is effective and can help a person faster than many other methods.

Essentially, people with trauma or PTSD often have a hard time making sense of what happened to them after a traumatic event. It’s believed that past traumatic experiences continue to cause problems in our lives when the memory of that experience is not processed properly.

“Unprocessed” memories contain all the negative emotions, thoughts, and even physical sensations that were present at the time of the event. When these memories are triggered, so too are the negative elements of the initial event, causing symptoms of PTSD or other mental health disorders.

Because it didn’t have the chance to heal, your brain didn’t receive the message that the danger is over. As such, new experiences can link up to earlier trauma experiences and reinforce a negative experience over and over again.

While some people may seek to make peace with the past, and others continue on as if it never happened, aware of it or not, most continue to be negatively affected by their unaddressed trauma. This can lead to scores of difficulties affecting everything from relationships and current life events to impairing basic coping mechanisms.

How Does EMDR Work? What is Bilateral Stimulation?

EMDR relies on the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) theory, developed by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D., which recognizes that your brain stores normal and traumatic memories differently.

During EMDR, you recall memories of a traumatic event in very specific ways. Accessing those memories aids in the reprocessing of the unpleasant event when combined with eye movements and guided directions called bilateral stimulation. This reprocessing aids in the “healing” of the mental damage caused by that memory.

With the help of an experienced therapist, you’ll identify the “target,” or the distressing memory you wish to concentrate on, as well as any negative thoughts, feelings, or physiological sensations associated with it. You’ll hold the recollection in your mind while also focusing on a back-and-forth movement or sound (such as your provider’s moving finger, a flashing light, or a tone that beeps in one ear at a time) until your distress subsides. The bilateral stimulation will last about 30 seconds each time, after which you will discuss how the exercise went for you.

While holding the recollection in your mind, you will eventually focus on a good belief and feeling. Your clinician will re-evaluate your symptoms near the conclusion of therapy to see if you need to process any additional targets.

Afterward, you will no longer feel like you’re reliving it when you recall a traumatic event, and the associated emotions will be much easier to manage.

Who Can Benefit from Bilateral Stimulation in EMDR Therapy?

EMDR therapy can be beneficial to people of all ages. Therapists use EMDR therapy to address a wide range of conditions and symptoms:

  • Anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias
  • Chronic Illness and medical issues
  • Depression and bipolar disorders
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Grief and loss
  • Pain
  • Performance anxiety
  • Personality disorders
  • PTSD and other trauma and stress-related issues
  • Sexual assault
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Violence and abuse

Comprehensive, Clinically Driven Behavioral Health Treatment in Chandler

At Recovery Syndicate, we are proud to offer EMDR, as well as a range of other evidence-based tools to help people find lasting recovery. Our clinical services are provided by licensed behavioral health professionals and behavioral health technicians under the direct supervision of a behavioral health professional. Clinical services include group therapy, individual therapy, and psycho-educational classes on a variety of topics including substance use, mental health, healthy relationships, anger management, and many more.

Recovery Syndicate’s experienced staff includes licensed psychiatric and medical professionals available for evaluation, diagnosis, medication management, physicals as well as ongoing services. We provide robust case management services to assist with planning for life after treatment, including therapy, housing, education, and coordination of legal matters.

To find out more, or see how we can help, get in touch today!

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