a person looks forward during eye movement therapy

Eye Movement Therapy: A Treatment for Addiction

Much of what addicts experience when they enter a rehabilitation facility or a support group is done simply because it has always been done. Too often, addiction treatments are grounded in philosophies and personal beliefs rather than research, facts, and success rates. In psychology and psychiatry, on the other hand, many treatments and techniques used with patients are backed up by scientific and medical evidence. Sometimes these two worlds coincide, and research from the world of psychiatry can help those struggling with addiction. Eye movement therapy is a scientific treatment making waves in addiction treatment.

Recovery Ranch Tennessee offers eye movement desensitizing and reprocessing (EMDR) treatment to people struggling with substances and trauma. If you have struggled to find addiction treatment that works for you, an EMDR therapy program may be able to help. Get started at Recovery Ranch in Tennessee today by calling 1.844.876.7680.

How Does Trauma Affect People?

Bad experiences, ranging from humiliation to a genuinely traumatic event, can tremendously impact our lives. They can make us feel uncomfortable or even make us unable to function in life. Traumatic memories cause both psychological and physiological responses. In extreme cases, such as in people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the physical and mental effects of memories can be intense. They may include depression, insomnia, anxiety, and self-destructive behaviors.

The response that most people have to trauma is to repress the memories and to try to forget that it ever happened. This rarely works and can result in more negative effects. Many therapies have been used for years to treat PTSD and less severe trauma cases. Most common, perhaps, is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which involves going through the event mentally and then learning healthy ways to cope with the resulting stress and other symptoms.

What Is EMDR?

Dr. Francine Shapiro discovered and promoted eye movement desensitizing and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, which effectively treats people who have experienced trauma and struggle to stop thinking about it. According to Dr. Shapiro, she came up with the idea when on a walk many years ago. She was having difficulty repressing disturbing thoughts and found that the memories receded by moving her eyes back and forth. In 1990, Dr. Shapiro founded the EMDR Institute and began treating people struggling with trauma and addiction. Since then, many other practitioners have taken up EMDR therapy and used it successfully with patients.

How Does Eye Movement Therapy Work?

EMDR treatment uses eye movements to help the patient become desensitized to the negative emotions associated with a traumatic event and to reprocess those memories into something more positive. The actual process of EMDR is not simple and may vary slightly by the practitioner. It should not be attempted by an untrained professional.

In an EMDR session, the therapist will ask the patient to think of the traumatic memories and then follow a moving light or another object with their eyes only. The therapist will then ask them to think of a positive memory and follow the object again. The patient will be asked to switch between negative and positive thoughts at differing intervals. This allows them to become desensitized to the trauma and to begin to associate more positive emotions with it.

Experts don’t completely understand why eye movement helps with desensitization. While there has been minimal research into why the EMDR technique works, the success rates speak to its efficacy. Not only does it help reduce the responses to traumatic events, but it also does so rather quickly. One idea of why it works is that the movement of the eyes is similar to what happens during the sleep cycle, called rapid eye movement (REM). REM sleep allows the brain to process information and may be a time when the sleeper can put events into different perspectives, changing how they feel about them. REM sleep is also known to reduce anxiety.

Using EMDR for Addiction

While no one fully understands how EMDR works and why it is effective in reducing the negative aspects of trauma, it is known to be helpful for many problems. Trauma forms the basis of many conditions, and if the trauma can be relieved, so can the resulting issues. EMDR has been found to bring relief to those suffering from PTSD, depression, stress, eating disorders, and even chronic physical pain.

More recently, EMDR has been applied to addiction treatment. Therapists often use it to help people process traumatic memories. By treating those memories, the need to abuse a substance disappears. Although it is not a perfect cure, using EMDR to reduce negative emotions surrounding a trauma can have a powerful and, very importantly, immediate effect on people struggling with substances. It may be beneficial when combined with other therapies or support groups.

EMDR for Addiction at Recovery Ranch TN

Recovery Ranch TN is a residential addiction treatment center that uses a variety of therapies to help patients overcome their dependencies, including EMDR. Our highly-trained therapists have experience treating patients with EMDR and can help you work through your trauma. Additionally, our spacious program in Tennessee provides the opportunity for:

  • Detox services
  • Dual diagnosis treatment
  • Sober living
  • Equine therapy
  • Exercise in a gym and ropes course

Eye movement therapy could help you heal and get on the road to recovery. Find out more about the evidence-based therapies we use at Recovery Ranch TN by speaking to one of our recovery specialists today. Call 1.844.876.7680 to get started on your personalized addiction treatment therapy plan.

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