All addiction has its roots in trauma. Very often, adverse life events experienced in early childhood or adolescence—the critical formative years of development—leave indelible scars and gaping, unresolved emotional and psychological wounds that can lead to arrested development and a lifetime pattern of anesthetizing behaviors and addictions. The good news is that, with proper help, people can heal from these painful life experiences, resolve the trauma that has kept them paralyzed, and find resilience for healthy change. One such help is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).
In the broadest sense, EMDR is an evidence-based integrative psychotherapy approach (Shapiro, 2001)intended to treat psychological disorders induced by trauma (such as PTSD), as well as other mental health problems and somatic symptoms that typically have been unresponsive to traditional talk-therapies alone.
EMDR is based on the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model, which posits that incomplete processing of traumatic or disturbing adverse life experiences get encoded in the brain and the person is no longer able to function adequately or move forward. These traumatic memories (and their associated emotional pairings) are stored in the brain and the body in such a way that they become inaccessible for the person to process. This impairs a person’s ability to integrate these harmful experiences in an adaptive manner, and therefore, produces ongoing mental, emotional, and physical health problems for the person.
“EMDR facilitates the resumption of normal information processing and integration. This treatment approach, which targets past experiences, current triggers, and future potential challenges, results in the alleviation of presenting symptoms, a decrease or elimination of distress from the disturbing memory, improved view of the self, relief from bodily disturbance, and resolution of present and future anticipated triggers.”
EMDR is recognized as a safe and gentle treatment approach to helping people of all ages fulfill their potential for development, while minimizing risks of harm. EMDR aims to achieve comprehensive treatment safely, effectively and efficiently, while maintaining a person’s stability.
EMDR employs a three-pronged treatment protocol (5 to 15 weekly sessions average) so that past events are reprocessed, present triggers desensitized, and future adaptive outcomes explored for related challenges. The EMDR therapy uses bilateral stimulation, right/left eye movement, or tactile stimulation, or sound, which repeatedly activates the opposite sides of the brain releasing emotional experiences that are “trapped” in the nervous system. This assists the neurophysiological system, the basis of the mind/body connection, to free itself of blockages and reconnect itself.
EMDR allows a client to process an emotional experience that he/she cannot yet talk about yet following a EMDR session find an ability to talk about it freely. Most importantly, it can eliminate stress surrounding the traumatic event, with the purpose of allowing new life in the once traumatized and emotionally difficult memory.
The Center for Relational Recovery offers EMDR as an adjunctive therapy to assist with resolution of trauma and other mental health challenges. If you or your loved one would like more information about this treatment, or to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed therapists trained in EMDR, please give us a call.
American Psychiatric Association (2013), Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition,
Shapiro, F. (2001). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, 2nd edition, N.Y.: The Guilford Press.
Written by: Robert Rubinow, LPC