EMDR Therapy: The Pros and Cons

There’s a lot of confusion about eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, better known as EMDR therapy. Many don’t know what it is. Some mistakenly believe it’s dangerous. Very few understand the great benefits EMDR can have for treating people suffering with substance abuse or PTSD.

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The benefits of EMDR therapy include:

  • A decrease in emotional distress related to memory
  • Long-lasting behavioral changes
  • Successfully treating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder that can be linked to drug and alcohol addiction

Even with all of the proven advantages of EMDR therapy, people may have reservations about using it to treat chemical dependency. Read on for an in-depth look at the pros and cons of EMDR therapy.

What Is EMDR Therapy?

When people go to rehab, they expect to have all of the latest technology and medicine on their side. EMDR therapy is one such treatment. Top rehab facilities offer this treatment, reflecting how effective and important it is for recovery.

EMDR is based on the theory that psychotherapy can help your mind heal itself, just as your body would heal itself from an irritation such as a cut or scrape. Essentially, it teaches your brain to process things in a new way, releasing the trauma carried by certain memories and freeing your mind from old attachments. EMDR focuses on removing these mind blocks and allowing your brain to move on from past emotional problems.

EMDR involves a combination of stimulating sights and sounds. The therapist uses eye movement and auditory sounds to help the person being treated reach the point where they don’t experience distress while reliving a memory.

There are eight phases to EMDR, and they include revisiting the previous session at the beginning of every new one so that each session serves as a building block for recovery.

Pros of EMDR Therapy

EMDR therapy has been around since 1989. Despite that relatively short history, there’s extensive clinical research backing this method. It has been the subject of numerous studies that support its use. The American Psychiatric Association and the U.S. Department of Defense have recognized it as a form of treatment for trauma.

Aside from these strong academic indicators, there are other benefits to EMDR that have been detailed over the years. While it’s convincing to hear those with field experience singing the praises of EMDR, it’s even more effective to see exactly how it can help with overcoming substance abuse.

EMDR therapy has a number of pros. It can:

  • Separate Reactions From Stressors

Substance addiction can become a habitual way of dealing with a long-term stressor. For example, when confronted with a memory from the past, a person may take drugs or drink alcohol as a way to cope. EMDR helps those struggling with addiction separate that cause and effect. They learn to deal with the emotion of an issue rather than simply reacting to it.

  • Reveal Past Traumas So True Healing Can Begin

Sometimes a person will block out or push aside memories of a traumatic event that contributes to their addiction. If they don’t deal with this past trauma, they can’t move past it and begin to heal.

  • Mimic Sleeping Patterns to Bring About Healing

When people sleep, their bodies go about the hard work of repairing themselves. All the “heavy lifting” of body maintenance is done when people sleep, from healing bruises to mending broken bones.

It follows, then, that to heal the mind, it’s helpful to mimic that sleeping pattern. EMDR relies on a unique reproduction of the REM sleep cycle, teaching the mind to heal while also relaxing the rest of the body.

  • Treat a Wide Range of Symptoms

EMDR therapy can treat a wide range of symptoms, many of which are experienced by those battling addiction, including panic attacks, relationship issues, low self-esteem, anxiety, phobia, insomnia, excessive worrying and anger issues.

  • Offer Fast Relief

EMDR therapy is effective — and it’s also fast. In just one session, people struggling with addiction can find relief. There may be a short period of emotional discomfort, but those feelings quickly leave. It’s heartening for anyone battling an addiction to feel as though they have made progress. It gives them the courage and commitment to keep fighting.

  • No Negative Side Effects

Many people worry about the side effects of any treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. Despite many studies of this form of therapy, there are no negative EMDR therapy side effects shown. More people are using EMDR than ever, and both therapists and those being treated agree there are no harmful side effects.

Cons of EMDR Therapy

There are very few negative aspects to using EMDR therapy.

The biggest criticism of EMDR is that it hasn’t been used long enough to draw long-term conclusions about its effectiveness. The therapy was pioneered in 1989 by Francine Shapiro. While there are at least 20,000 people who have been trained as EMDR therapists, this is still a relatively short history with few practitioners compared to other therapies such as cognitive or behavioral.

The other con is researchers aren’t 100 percent sure why it works. They have theories, of course, and they have proof that it works. There are many mysteries of the brain that human science has yet to unlock, and the reason for EMDR’s effectiveness is one of them, for now.

Get Started With EMDR Therapy

Armed with the knowledge of EMDR’s benefits and drawbacks, it’s possible to make an informed decision about pursuing this type of treatment for addiction or PTSD. EMDR is safe and effective. It can help speed the recovery from addiction.

If you or someone you know is interested in EMDR therapy, 12 Keys Rehab can provide more information. Contact us today to discuss our EMDR options.

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