Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing (EMDR) in Addiction Treatment

Eye Movement Desensitization and Teprocessing therapy, more commonly known as EMDR therapy, is a type of therapy that was originally intended to reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in patients.

The bilateral stimulation used in EMDR therapy, including side-to-side eye movements and tapping, is believed to help the patient to reprocess past traumas.

As the eyes move back and forth, the patient is encouraged to think about a traumatic memory.

After the rapid eye movement and/or tapping, the therapist will usually ask the patient to report how they feel about the memory.

They may be asked to monitor their body and state whether they feel any negativity anywhere; for example, heaviness in the chest, or pain in the arms. This is known as a body scan.

According to EMDR advocates, this is trauma that has not yet been processed, and is stuck in the body.

With more EMDR sessions, the trauma may be processed healthily, and this could reduce the uncomfortable physical sensations that the patient is dealing with.

As well as helping patients with PTSD, EMDR is used to treat addiction as well as other mental health disorders.

This is because an individual does not need have to have a PTSD diagnosis to experience trauma. most people with addiction could benefit from reprocessing memories.

What are the Eight Stages Of EMDR Therapy?

Two men talking at a table

There are eight stages of EMDR therapy that must be followed to ensure their sessions are 09905″ style=”padding: 1px; box-shadow: rgb(229, 229, 229) 1px 1px; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-print-color-adjust: exact; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 102); font-style: inherit;”>safe, effective, and in line with EMDR practices.

1: Treatment plan

Before EMDR therapy begins, the therapist must sit down</strong> with the patient and learn about their personal circumstances.

This includes asking for a history</strong> of treatment and mental health conditions.

At this stage, if EMDR therapy is deemed too risky for the patient, the therapist should voice their concern and encourage the patient to pursue a ps://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/alcohol-treatments” data-mce-href=”https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/alcohol-treatments”>diffefont-style: inherit;”>rent type of addiction treatment.

However, if it is believed that EMDR would benefit the patient, the therapist will create a treatment plan. The plan should identify the patient’s -symptoms” data-mce-href=”https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/questions/alcoholism-symptoms”>symptoms, and the proposed method of treatment (e.g., six sessions of EMDR with tapping).

2: Preparation

Further preparation must be pursued before EMDR can begin. Usually, this involves educating the patient on how to tolerate EMDR, due to the uncomfortable side effects that can occur.

For example, the therapist may advise the patient on how to meditate before they go to sleep, journal when they feel distressed, and how to control their emotions before they spiral.

3: Assessment

The therapist needs to be aware of the type of trauma the patient wants to tackle, though it is not always necessarystrong> for them to know the details of the trauma. This is dealt with in the assessment phase.

.jpg” alt=”Individual therapy” width=”640″ height=”427″ data-mce-src=”https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/priscilla-du-preez-F9DFuJoS9EU-unsplash.jpg”>

4: Desensitization

The patient will think about their traumatic memory as they dart their eyes back and forth, following the therapist’s fingerstrong> or a series of <strong>bright lights. This serves to reduce the distressing symptoms that arise with the memory.

5: Installation>

The therapist will now dwell on<strong> positive thoughts, either by countering the negative thoughts held by the patient, or encouraging them to think of a happy place (that will have already been established in the preparation stage).

6: Body scan</h4>

The patient will scan their entire body, looking for any physical sensationsng> to report to the therapist.

This helps the therapist to directstrong> the session towards the specific traumas the individual is affected by.

7: Closure

Before the session ends, the therapist helps the patient back to a ight” match=”safe” loopnumber=”729309905″ style=”padding: 1px; box-shadow: rgb(229, 229, 229) 1px 1px; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-print-color-adjust: exact; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 102); font-style: inherit;”>safe mindset by encouraging them to think of their happy place, and reminding them of the established self-regulation techniques.


At this point, plans for the next session will be discussed and the therapist will explain that the patient may experience side effects in the meantime.

They will be encouraged to make note of these symptoms and to bring those notes to the next session.

This tells the therapist how the patient is coping with the sessions, and whether they need to extend the therapy or cut it short.strong>p>

8: Re-evaluation

At the very end of treatment, the therapist and patient will discuss how the sessions have been. The client can either finish with EMDR, or opt for further sessions if they have not reprocessed everything they wanted to.

What are the Benefits Of EMDR Therapy in Addiction Treatment?

Firstly, if someone with a substance use disorder has traumatic memories linked to drug use, EMDR therapy can promote healing from this.</p>

They may be struggling with memories of binging drugsong> in front of w.rehab4alcoholism.com/resources/help-loved-one” data-mce-href=”https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/resources/help-loved-one”>loved onesa>, ef=”https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/guides/understanding-dangers-alcohol-overdose” data-mce-href=”https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/guides/understanding-dangers-alcohol-overdose”>overdosing and ending up in hospital, or drinking to excess in favour of spending time with their children.

Whatever the negative memory may be, unless it is processed in a healthy way it will continue to haunt the patient through mental or physical symptoms that interfere with their quality of life.

EMDR can step in to trigger reprocessing, which can leave the patient feeling more neutral about the traumatic memories.

EMDR therapy is also helpful for processing memories that are not directly linked to drug or alcohol addiction. Most people with addiction will have dealt with mental health issues, so they may struggle with intrusive thoughts, s/relationship-between-anxiety-alcohol-use” data-mce-href=”https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/guides/relationship-between-anxiety-alcohol-use”>anxious thought cycles, or rehab4alcoholism.com/health-effects/alcohol-depressant” data-mce-href=”https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/health-effects/alcohol-depressant”>depressive mindsets.

<p>When these issues have been <strong>wors</stro</blockquoteened by trauma, they can improve after EMDR therapy.


For example, if someone witnessed their loved one die and subsequently had intrusive thoughts for many years, EMDR therapy could potentially reduce or remove these thoughts after the patient reprocessed the traumatic event they experienced.

The practice of body scanning is incredibly beneficial for people with addiction, as it encourages patients to stay in touch with how their mental health is affecting their physical health.

This means they will be quick to notice the desire to relapse, and they can reduce their relapse risk by staying mentally and physically well.

Interestingly, ref=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5623122/”>research from 2017 shows that EMDR therapy has even been known to improve the physical symptoms of addiction</a>, including anxiety and alcohol cravings. This is great news for anyone in recovery, but particularly people who are still dealing with long-alcohol-withdrawal-last”>withdrawal symptoms.

What are the Highlight” match=”drawbacks” loopnumber=”729309905″ style=”padding: 1px; box-shadow: rgb(229, 229, 229) 1px 1px; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-print-color-adjust: exact; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 102); font-style: inherit;”>Drawbacks Of EMDR Therapy in Addiction Treatment?

Women talking 1-1

One drawback of EMDR for addiction recovery is that the therapy was designed for people with f=”https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/latest-news/ptsd-amongst-the-military-and-veterans” data-mce-href=”https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/latest-news/ptsd-amongst-the-military-and-veterans”>PTSD, not people with addiction.

<p>This means the general practices of EMDR are not specific to the href=”https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/latest-news/is-addiction-a-disease-or-a-choice”>disease of addiction, which could make the therapy less effective than addiction counselling.


That being said, therapists can specialise their sessions to suit the client, so there can be a focus on addiction in EMDR therapy.

The patient chooses the memories to reprocess, so if these are addiction-specific, the session will revolve around that issue.

Another downside of EMDR for people with addiction is that it is usually a short-term therapy.rong>

This is not always a downside, but it means it is not a suitable therapy for people who want to talk at length about subjects such as relapse history, childhood trauma, and the links between mental health and ab/alcoholism-causes-risk-factors” data-mce-href=”https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/alcohol-treatments/alcohol-rehab/alcoholism-causes-risk-factors”>alcoholism.

On the other hand, if a patient wanted to target a specific issue relating to their substance use disorder, such as trauma from neglect, EMDR therapy is great for this.</strong>

It also works well for peoplem;”> who find talk therapy ineffective, as there is no need to have lengthy conversationsg> about trauma font-size: 1rem;”> in EMDRize: 1rem;”> sessions.

Finally, there is not as much evidence> for EMDR therapy as there is for traditional therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

This is off-putting for some patients, as they don’t want to invest in a therapy that may not be effective.

However, EMDR is evidence-based, and it is currder-radius: 3px; -webkit-print-color-adjust: exact; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 102); font-style: inherit;”>rently believed to work well for people with addiction. There is never a guarantee that a certain therapeutic model will succeed, so there is always a risk with therapy.

If you enrol onto a comprehensive addiction treatment programme, you won’t have to take a risk with therapy. There will be an opportunity to work with a range of therapists who specialise in different ref=”https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/resources/types”>types of addiction therapy, so you will have time to figure out what works for you.

Does Rehab 4 Alcoholism Provide Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy?

We don’t provide therapy at Rehab 4 Alcoholism, but we can refer you to an effective treatment programme with EMDR therapists included.p>

If this is something you’re interested in, contact us on <a href=”tel:0800 111 4108″ data-mce-href=”tel:0800 111 4108″>0800 111 4108 and ask us about your addiction treatment options.</a

The facilities we work with provide wonderful therapy programmes, inviting patients to experience a range of models, from -mce-href=”https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/alcohol-treatments/equine-therapy”>equine therapy to ref=”https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/alcohol-treatments/family-therapy” data-mce-href=”https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/alcohol-treatments/family-therapy”>family therapy.

Even if you know that EMDR therapy is at the top of your list, we encourage you to be ready to explore other models, as this will only diversify and strengthentrong> your rehab experience.

If you find a residential rehab that is perfect in every way, but it does not offer EMDR therapy, let us know.

We can introduce you to an alternative treatment centre that provides this therapy, or we will advise you on how to find a great EMDR therapist after rehab.

FAQs About EMDR Therapy

ttps://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/Eye-brown.jpg” alt=”” width=”640″ height=”427″ data-mce-src=”https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/Eye-brown.jpg”>

Below, we provide answers to common questions around the EMDR therapy process:

1. Can EMDR therapy cure alcoholism?

<p< span=””>>No, EMDR therapy cannot cure alcoholism. It has the power to reducetrong> the symptoms of alcoholism, help patients cope with the recovery process, and instil positive coping mechanisms, but not to cure the illness of alcoholism.


This doesn’t make EMDR therapy less effective than other types of therapy, as there is no cure for alcoholism or substance addiction in general.

All you can do is reduce your risk of relapse by pursuing effective methods for recovery, which include lism.com/latest-news/surviving-an-alcohol-detox”>detoxing,ref=”https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/resources/types” data-mce-href=”https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/resources/types”> therapy, and fellowship groups.

2. How expensive is EMDR therapy?

Private EMDR therapy tends to be more expensive</strong> than standard psychotherapy, as it requires a therapist with the <s< span=””>trong>skills and training</s<> to implement eye movement processing, tapping, body scanning, and various other EMDR practices.


At the lower end of the scale, some people pay £50 per EMDR session, yet others are paying £150 and over.

Keep in mind that EMDR is often conducted over 6-12 sessions, so the length of time is important when comparing this therapy to long-term treatments with cheaper rates per session.


Rehab programmes offering EMDR therapy <strong>will not expect patients to pay an additional fee for this therapeutic model. For example, if you are in an treatments/intensive-outpatient” data-mce-href=”https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/alcohol-treatments/intensive-outpatient”>intensive outpatient programme for addiction, or a nts/alcohol-rehab/private”>private rehab clinic, you can see an EMDR therapist as part of your <str< span=””>ong>general addiction treatment plan.</str<>

ll wp-image-9486″ src=”https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Man-in-therapy.jpg” alt=”A man sitting with a female therapist who is holding a clipboard” width=”750″ height=”500″ data-mce-src=”https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Man-in-therapy.jpg”>

3. Can you personalise EMDR therapy?

Yes, EMDR sessions can be personalised. The style of the session will depend on the therapist’s preferences,ong> as well as the patient’s personal situation.


For example, some patients would rather avoid all discussion of a traumatic memory, and many EMDR therapists are happy with this set-up.

The memory does not always have to be described – all that is necessary for the reprocessing is for the patient to keep the memory in mind as they move their eyes or tap their hands.

On the other hand, certain EMDR therapists are willing to delve into deep discussions of traumatic events, if the patient is also on board with this.

As well as reprocessing trauma by holding an image in one’s mind, patients can reprocess other stimuli such as songs or song lyrics.

The process for this would be the same – they would listen to the song, or listen to a reading of the lyrics, while they moved their eyes or tapped their body.

Even the method of reprocessing can be personalised with EMDR therapy.

Some therapists prefer to use lights to help the patient move their eyes back and forth, others use their finger, and others encourage the patient to close their eyes and tap their hands somewhere on their body.

In terms of the setting of EMDR therapy, it can be either in person or online. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many patients benefitted from virtual EMDR therapy from the comfort of their own homes.


However, some people prefer a<strong> more <strong>natural environment due to the sensitive nature of EMDR therapy for addiction.</s

<p< span=””>>3″ src=”https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Support.jpg” alt=”Holding hands” width=”640″ height=”512″ data-mce-src=”https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Support.jpg”>


4. What counts as trauma?

Some common examples of trauma include:

  • Emotional or physical neglect
  • Divorce
  • Sexual abuse
  • Grief
  • Poverty
  • Substance abuse

However, we can also be traumatised by events that may not seem catastrophic to others.


For example, it is now believed that 0contribute%20to%20PTSD%20symptoms” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener” data-mce-href=”https://www.autism.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/topics/mental-health/post-traumatic-stress-disorder#:~:text=Some%20research%20suggests%20autistic%20people,or%20contribute%20to%20PTSD%20symptoms”>people with autism can experience complex trauma as a result of being socially isolated or bullied.ong>

This was once viewed as a negative yet normal part of life, but we are now understanding that it could have produced traumatic memories that need to be reprocessed.

Even if you can’t identify a specific trauma<!–strong> in your life, you should look into EMDR therapy, given that addiction very often causes trauma.

You may believe you have come out of your addiction unscathed, but most people would<str< span=””>ong> benefit</str<> from looking back at the struggles they have faced, and discovering how they have affected their wellbeing.

Adventure Therapypy.jpg”>

5. Are there side effects to EMDR therapy?

With any type of therapy, it is common for the patient to feel more sensitive after sessions, so they are often encouraged to avoid difficult tasks right after therapy.

However, this is even more important with EMDR therapy, as reprocessing distressing memories can temporarily put you back in the place you were in when the trauma occurred.

Some patients find that they are much more emotional when they get EMDR therapy, which can lead to mood swings and relationship issues.

It is also common to experience vivid dreams,</strong> which are believed to be a sign of successful reprocessing.

Often, painful memories will come back in full swing when someone goes to EMDR therapy. This can be very distressing, as it creates the impression that the patient is deteriorating.

However, with EMDR therapy, things get worse before they get better.

What’s more, the memory has always been affecting the patient, but they may have repressed it, which made them believe, falsely, that they had moved on from it.

Get help today

A woman holding a mobile phone

To learn more about EMDR, how it can help you overcome addiction, and to start your recovery journey, give our team a call today on 0800 111 4108.

Our experts are ready to help you find your ideal drug and alcohol rehab and help you to give yourself the best chance of permanent recovery.

With the right treatment and the right support, any addiction can be overcome.