Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy or EMDR is a specific form of psychotherapy initially established to help people who have experienced an emotionally distressing event or severe trauma. The foundations of this method were developed in the 1980s by psychotherapist Francine Shapiro, who worked with clients experiencing personal trauma. Shapiro noticed that when her patients made specific lateral eye movements as they talked about their traumatizing feelings and experiences, they described feeling some relief from any stress they felt.
These lateral eye movements employed during EMDR therapy are side-to-side movements developed by Shapiro in a technique borrowing heavily from the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. In EMDR, The client follows the therapist’s finger back and forth across their field of vision while discussing traumatic memories and feelings. EMDR therapy employs one unique aspect: specialized eye movements or attention-grabbing techniques like finger tapping to help the client focus when talking about their emotional experiences and feelings.
Using EMDR for Alcoholism
Initially, EMDR was developed to help treat people who had stress due to traumatic experiences, including individuals diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or anything similar. With the development of the technique, it was administered to other problems such as stress or trauma-related substance abuse. Currently, EMDR can be used to help with various issues, alcohol abuse included. A majority of people struggling with alcohol and drug addiction also suffer from trauma. When one experiences PTSD symptoms or anxiety, they tend to drown out their traumatic memories with alcohol or other addictive substances. These individuals stay numb without dealing with their traumatic feelings, so the trauma remains stuck in their bodies. The connection between the mind and the body is so strong that any trauma in the body starts generating more symptoms. EMDR therapy is an effective way to convert these feelings safely to help empower the client in their life. The individual comes out of EMDR therapy with more wisdom and compassion for themselves and others. Therefore, the need for alcohol and drugs reduces in the affected individual.
Many rehabilitation centers provide EMDR therapy for alcoholism, but the success of the treatment depends on the execution. Efficient EMDR therapy has a few essential elements that help make it fruitful:
- Changing the traumatic occurrence on an emotional level to make it more manageable or positive
- Discovering how to deal with disturbing or traumatic feelings and memories using bodily sensations
- Empowering patients to help them deal with their condition
It is essential to go for counsellors who have specialized in EMDR therapy and worked with people who have struggled with trauma and substance abuse. Routine EMDR therapy sessions incorporated with alcohol detox and rehabilitation can help people suffering from alcoholism become sober. EMDR treatment can help to alleviate the symptoms of alcoholism in most patients as it is very effective, primarily when the treatment is carried out over a long period.
The duration of the treatment depends mainly on the extent of the trauma experienced by the patient. It also hinges on the age at which the patient started developing their PTSD. Most times, therapists can treat one traumatic event successfully within 5 hours, but individuals who have gone through several traumatic events will require more time in EMDR treatment. The longer the EMDR treatment time, the more efficient the treatment can be. EMDR has grown to be a highly efficient therapy to deal with trauma and disturbing memories. Patients with low self-esteem who also experience feelings of powerlessness can gain the most benefits from EMDR therapy. Controlling one’s mental health is the best way to get on track when tackling alcoholism, and EMDR therapy can play a significant role in this.
Pairing EMDR with Other Alcoholism Treatment Plans
Even though EMDR is suitable for treating trauma in patients, it also needs to be used with other forms of alcoholism treatment, including medical detox. Detox helps to eliminate harmful toxins from the patient’s body and alleviate any withdrawal symptoms experienced. Persons suffering from alcohol addiction have a better chance of recovery and sobriety if they take up residential alcohol detox. If a patient does not go through medical detoxification, the alcohol withdrawal symptoms may become fatal quickly. A comprehensive alcohol addiction treatment plan makes sure the patient is safe throughout the process. Aside from medical detox and EMDR, patients can also seek out other forms of behavioral therapy provided by their rehabilitation center, as these therapies may help them treat underlying issues causing their alcohol addiction. Alternative behavioral therapies can play a significant role in healing the patient’s body and mind. They include:
- Motivational interviewing to help motivate the patient to quit taking alcohol
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) trains the mind to identify triggers and avoid them while rewiring the patient’s thinking.
- 12-step programs to help the patient get support from others going through the same situation, e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous
- Family therapy to help fix damaged relationships with loved ones due to the patient’s alcoholism
- Interpersonal counseling helps individuals open up about their negative thoughts and innermost struggles and deal with them accordingly.
When the patient tries these other kinds of behavioral therapies provided at rehabilitation centers, it can help them recover from their alcohol addiction much faster. The patients might have to try varying treatment plans before finding what works for them since they respond better to particular treatments.
Patients who have ever struggled with some trauma in their lives may develop an alcohol addiction because of it. Such individuals should look into EMDR therapy and the benefits it can offer them. Such behavioral treatment helps heal the mind and retrain it, promoting long-lasting recovery from alcohol addiction. Patients who take up EMDR therapy feel healthier physically and mentally. EMDR offers patients hope as it helps them recognize that they do not need to use alcohol and drugs to dull their pain. EMDR also provides the recovering individual with beneficial mindfulness techniques and coping tools to use regularly to manage anxiety or negative emotions. They will have more control over their experience instead of being controlled by their emotional responses and negative thoughts about themselves, reducing their chances of relapse. EMDR therapy has long-lasting effects in combating alcoholism.