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What Is EMDR Therapy For Addiction Treatment?

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EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a relatively new therapeutic method that can benefit some people struggling with addiction. EMDR therapy for addiction treatment is helpful when the person’s addiction stems from trauma-related disorders, like PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). 

What is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR therapy uses a guided therapeutic method to help individuals focus on specific adverse events while learning to relax. It uses eye movements while the person recalls previous traumatic events. Once they focus on a single part of the event, different techniques help them deal with the issue to overcome it.  

How an EMDR Therapy Session Works

An EMDR therapy session consists of eight different phases. At each phase, the therapist gains specific information to help the individual work through their traumatic experience towards closure. 

Phase 1

The first phase is where the therapist will gather information from the individual about their traumatic event. They also learn more about their background to develop an appropriate treatment plan. 

Phase 2

During the second phase, the therapist explains how EMDR will work and what techniques could help the person work through their traumatic event. The therapist may also instruct the individual on relaxation and breathing exercises they can use during EMDR to help alleviate stress and anxiety associated with their experience. 

Phase 3

The third phase is the assessment phase, where the client identifies specific triggers and targets. Next, the therapist and individual work together to determine the extent of the emotional impact the trigger has on them to develop positive approaches for dealing with them. 

Phase 4

The fourth phase is where the therapist guides through one particular part of the traumatic event to start desensitization. The therapist guides the client with some type of bilateral stimulation, usually eye movements. However, therapists can also use body tapping or auditory stimulation from the left to the right side of the body.

Phase 5

This phase of EMDR is where the therapist helps the individual start to replace the negative feelings associated with the traumatic event trigger with positive ones. 

Phase 6

During the sixth phase, the therapist and individual reevaluate any remaining triggers associated with the traumatic experience. Then, several previous phases are repeated until there are no remaining triggers. 

Phase 7

Closure is obtained during the seventh phase of EMDR. The therapist and individual reassess their traumatic event and determine whether the treatment has been beneficial and if their emotional responses have improved. 

Phase 8 

The last phase of EMDR is where there is a complete reevaluation of the previous phases. The objective is to ensure the individual develops effective coping techniques and is capable of using them. 

If there are any remaining issues or the individual does not feel their traumatic event has been fully resolved, they return to previous phases and continue to work through them. They will repeat this process until they are satisfied. 

EMDR Therapy for Addiction Treatment

EMDR therapy for addiction treatment focuses on alcohol use and drug use memories. Unfortunately, for most addicts, there is a loss of control that leads to continuous alcohol and substance misuse that can cause them to lapse and relapse during recovery. 

Similar to how EMDR helps an individual work through a traumatic event, EMDR helps an addict focus on their addictive behaviors and the emotions they feel. Gradually, they start to learn how to let go of any intense or negative feelings associated with their memories of alcohol and drug misuse. 

Furthermore, they start to learn effective coping mechanisms for dealing with triggers and overcoming them. 

The Pros and Cons of EMDR Therapy for Addiction Treatment


  • EMDR is a drug-free therapy method.
  • It allows the individual to resolve previous traumatic events tied to their addiction.
  • EMDR can help addicts focus on their alcohol and drug misuse behaviors and learn effective coping skills. 
  • It can help a person better understand the reasons for what led to their addiction.
  • It can be easier to process events and overcome when the person finds it difficult to talk about them openly. 
  • The duration of rehab treatment is sometimes shorter when using EMDR.
  • EDMR has been successful in helping addicts maintain sobriety when they have used other treatment methods and have relapsed. 


  • EMDR is a fairly new therapeutic method with limited research showing its effectiveness in treating addiction.
  • Not everyone may benefit from EMDR when they are unwilling to participate or are fully honest about their triggers.
  • Some people find rapid-eye movements uncomfortable and have difficulties doing them.
  • Other clients feel excessively drained mentally and physically after an EMDR session.
  • Some people find recalling painful and traumatic events extremely difficult. 

Even with the drawbacks of EMDR, those who have used it as part of their addiction rehab treatment program have found it beneficial when combined with other therapies and treatment methods.

EDMR Therapy for Addiction Treatment in Orange County, CA

When you have tried overcoming your addiction using other rehab treatments only to relapse, or if you want help overcoming a traumatic event that led to your addiction, try EDMR therapy at Pacific Sands Recovery Center in Orange County, California. We offer personalized addiction treatment plans tailored to your specific needs while providing a caring, supportive, and safe environment. For further information about EDMR therapy and our addiction treatment programs, visit our admissions page today.

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