Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapeutic technique developed by Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s, designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories, which is increasingly utilised in addiction and alcohol rehabilitation. The method involves the patient recalling distressing events while receiving bilateral sensory input, such as eye movements or tapping, guided by a trained therapist. This process is thought to activate both hemispheres of the brain, facilitating the reprocessing and integration of traumatic memories in a healthier manner, thereby reducing their emotional impact. Although not a cure-all for addiction, EMDR is a valuable component of a comprehensive treatment plan, aiming to address the psychological underpinnings of substance abuse, support emotional healing and enhance overall recovery. Outcomes vary among individuals but many report significant benefits, including diminished distress and improved emotional resilience.

It is based on the Adaptive Information Processing model, which suggests that PTSD and similar disorders stem from disturbing experiences that haven’t been fully processed. EMDR therapy, often administered in 6-12 weekly sessions, attempts to alter the brain’s storage of these traumatic memories to alleviate symptoms.

The core of EMDR lies in targeting the memory itself, distinguishing it from other therapies that focus on the emotional and cognitive aftermath of trauma. It employs a method involving rhythmic left-right (bilateral) stimulation, such as eye movements, sounds or taps, while the patient recalls the trauma, aiming to desensitize the individual to the distressing memories and reduce their impact.

EMDR is recommended for PTSD treatment and follows an eight-phase structured approach, encompassing history-taking, preparation, memory assessment and memory processing towards adaptive resolution, concluding with treatment evaluation. Unlike other trauma treatments, EMDR does not require detailed recounting of the trauma, direct confrontation of beliefs or homework making it distinct in its approach to healing.

Key stages include comprehensive history collection, preparation through explanation and simulation of bilateral stimulation techniques and assessment by activating targeted memories. The therapy uses scales like the Subjective Units of Disturbance (SUD) and Validity of Cognition (VOC) to measure emotional and cognitive changes during therapy, adhering to standardised procedures for effective treatment.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR therapy helps treat addiction. Learn about its benefits, process and effectiveness in our comprehensive addiction summary. Get help from qualified counsellors.

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    Founded in 2008, WeDoRecover has evolved from an advisory service for addiction treatment into a comprehensive provider of care, following its 2019 merger with Changes Addiction Rehab in Johannesburg. Specialising in connecting patients to top-tier addiction treatment centers in the UK, South Africa and Thailand, WeDoRecover supports individuals globally, including those from the United Arab Emirates and Europe. Accepting both South African medical aid and international health insurance our organisation facilitates access to high-quality treatment for substance and alcohol use disorders, offering individualised care that addresses the physical, mental and social needs of patients.

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