While EMDR therapy is often the treatment of choice for trauma, it is also a powerful and effective resource for healing in addiction recovery.  With the entrenched, cyclical repetitive patterns of addiction behavior,  “talk therapy” isn’t enough.  If you’re struggling with an addiction,  you might want to consider an integrative approach that brings in as many diverse aspects of healing as possible.  EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy works at integrating emotions, beliefs, body sensations – all to facilitate change.  This is the essential kind of transformation that occurs with addiction recovery.  There are many kind of treatments that are helpful in treating addiction – treatment centers, 12-Step Recovery, group support, medication…It is important to have an arsenal of tools that are available for each individual need and EMDR therapy can present a powerful therapeutic choice.


EMDR Therapy isn’t just used to focus on problem areas but also to build positive inner resources and self-esteem, another aspect of addiction recovery.   Dealing with an addiction can be so destructive to your self image and can leave you ravaged by guilt and shame.  That’s all part of the negative addictive cycle that can lead to more using to get away from the pain.  EMDR Therapy can focus on helping you remember your strengths and positive attributes and can help to enhance those feelings in a deeply felt, embodied way.  When you feel more positive in your body, mind and spirit, you can counteract and defend yourself from the negativity and hopelessness of  living with addiction.


An addiction is doing the same behavior again and again, hoping for a different outcome but it doesn’t happen.  The denial and the dissociation from previous consequences of the action seem to disappear in the moment.  There is a very BIG disconnect.  The integrative aspect of EMDR therapy helps you focus on connecting up the consequences with the addictive behavior.  When the brain connects the behavior with the negative consequences, you have the opportunity to make a more conscious choice rather than go down the same insane, destructive path.  That is part of addiction recovery – breaking the pattern of denial and making more clear, conscious choices for health.


Another way EMDR therapy works with addiction recovery is with focusing on the triggers.  A trigger is your personal button that gets pushed that triggers the urge to use.  Whether the substance of addiction is food, drugs or alcohol,  there are certain feelings that can trigger looking for a way out and lead to that negative, addictive cycle.  Feelings of loneliness, emptiness, shame and anger are often the hardest and most overwhelming to deal with.  They can lead to searching for something to numb the pain.  Those feelings can also get combined with negative beliefs about yourself like ” I am worthless” or ‘I am unloveable”.  Then everything can feel like it is just too much and intolerable.  That’s what happens with a trigger. Sometimes you can get used to cutting off the feeling right at the beginning and reach for the addictive substance immediately.  So, then in the addictive process, it looks like the feeling didn’t even happen and that it is the bottle of wine or the chocolate cake that caused the binge.   EMDR works on this process – kind of a dismantling of the triggers.  Addiction recovery is about recognizing your vulnerabilities and your triggers and building more capacity to feel and develop better coping skills of self-care.  EMDR therapy can be a valuable tool in this healing process with supporting, integrating and empowering in the journey of addiction recovery and health.

For more information about EMDR Therapy or questions about how EMDR may work for you, please feel free to contact me.


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