Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)


Putting EMDR into Practice

The unique ways in which individuals respond to past traumatic events dictates the therapeutic approach we use at Avalon Malibu. While some clients benefit greatly from talk therapy and counselor driven reflection, others may have difficulty vocalizing particular experiences and therefore find discussion difficult. Many of our clients require a combination of treatments, and we choose our array of both traditional and holistic modalities for addiction and mental health based on your behavioral tendencies, which we can understand through a thorough evaluation. Depending upon the qualities you present, we may select Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy as one of the several approaches to the addiction and co-occurring disorder you are facing.

EMDR focuses on past life experiences that you and your therapist believe to be responsible for your addiction and mental health today. By addressing events that have caused your current mindset, you can work toward changing your thought processes behind these emotions as well as the behaviors associated with them, which will eventually give you the tools you need to adapt your mind to the future.

EMDR takes place during multiple treatment sessions, with the exact number depending upon your progress throughout therapy; however, eight different phases are used to create a sense of empowerment within you.

One session focuses on bilateral stimulation, which is where this form of treatment acquires its name, and these techniques can range from finger movements across your field of vision, tapping sounds or other audible movements. The goal of EMDR is to help you focus on a particular memory — one that has contributed to your emotional disturbances —and transform it into positive cognition. Studies have shown that the process mimics the brain’s dynamic during REM sleep, which is a cycle that allows internal revelations (dreams) to arise.

Other Phases of EMDR Involve:

Phase 1: You and your therapist will review your personal history and develop a specific treatment plan. During this phase, you will identify the memories (known as targets) that have caused emotional distress to focus on during therapy.

Phase 2: Your therapist will provide instructions on how to reduce the stress you may feel when you are not in treatment. Using these techniques will make your time during therapy more efficient, since transformation can only occur when you’re able to find balance both inside and outside of treatment.

Phase 3-6: Each of these phases focuses on a specific target and puts EMDR methods into practice using bilateral stimulation. You must be able to determine the memory you want to use, the feelings associated with that memory and the physical responses that come with it. Your therapist will also help you choose a positive thought, one that makes a contradictory statement from the target. When you begin to feel relief from the target, you will state the positive thought until you no longer feel the burden of the distressing event.

Phase 7: At this point, your targeted memories should begin to transform into something positive, and your therapist will ask you to keep track of your progress outside of treatment. Your goal is to use the positive beliefs you have chosen as a replacement for any negative feelings you may experience from now on.

Phase 8: You and your therapist will draw your sessions to a close and reflect on the progress you have made. If several targets are causing you emotional distress, your therapist will address each one with bilateral stimulation so that you can transform it into positive thinking. Afterward, you and your therapist will discuss how you continue to use your skills in the future.

How Transforming Your Memories Treats Addiction

Addiction often comes as a result of past experiences that were never adequately addressed. When painful life events occur, a healing process must take place for you to return to a healthy state of mind, but sometimes, individuals may choose to compensate displays of grief with drugs and alcohol. Emotional distress can also lead to mental health disorders that, if left untreated, can debilitate everyday life.

When you don’t allow negative events to resolve, you can begin to suffer, which may facilitate mental health issues and enable addiction. But when you can identify the events that led you toward destructive behaviors, you can confront those memories and adjust your mindset from a negative way of thinking into a positive one. Rather than describe an event as making you feel worthless, for example, EMDR gives you the resources to believe that you are valuable instead.

Transforming your cognition in this way will provide a stepping stone for your sobriety. When you process past events and desensitize yourself to them, no longer are you letting your thoughts hinder your recovery. You can think freely and find the strength you need to lead a fulfilling life without addiction.

To learn more about EMDR and how it can benefit you, contact Avalon by the Sea, Malibu at 888-958-7511 and schedule a personal interview with a member of our staff.

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