Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a therapy used to treat unresolved trauma. It targets how the brain stores painful, traumatic memories. The EMDR protocol for addiction helps people with addiction address traumatic memories and stop associating good feelings with risky behavior.
To understand EMDR, it’s essential to know the history of the therapy, how it works, who it can help treat, and the benefits of this type of treatment.
History of EMDR
Dr. Francine Shapiro, an American psychologist and educator, created Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. In 1987, as she went for a walk through the park, she found that moving her eyes from side to side seemed to decrease negative emotions she associated with traumatic memories. After this experience, she began to study this process and develop EMDR as a practice.
Shapiro found that others had similar responses to eye movements. She also added other components to this therapy and created a standard procedure for EMDR. In 1989, scholars published studies on the effects of EMDR on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
While EMDR is still relatively young, mental health professionals recognize it as an effective way to treat trauma.
How EMDR Works
Mental health professionals use EMDR to treat unresolved emotional trauma using sensory stimulation, including changing lights, gentle buzzing from handheld paddles, or sounds heard through headphones. These sensory inputs switch back and forth from the right to the left side while the client thinks about traumatic memories.
EMDR targets the way people’s brains store memories, thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. By doing this, EMDR can get to the root of clients’ struggles with those memories, thoughts, and feelings.
EMDR treatment has eight phases.
Phase 1: History and Treatment Planning
During this phase, a therapist reviews your history and decides where you are in treatment. The therapist will also talk with you about your trauma. They will help you identify potential traumatic memories to treat specifically.
Phase 2: Preparation
Your therapist works with you to discuss healthy coping mechanisms for the emotional or psychological issues you experience.
Phase 3: Assessment
In this phase, your therapist identifies specific memories and physical sensations associated with those memories to target in treatment.
Phases 4-7: Treatment
During this phase, you attend sessions where your therapist asks you to focus on a negative thought, memory, or image. At the same time, you’ll do specific eye movements. After moving your eyes, your therapist will ask you to allow your mind to go blank. They’ll then ask you to notice any thoughts that may come up after that. Your therapist may ask you to refocus on a specific memory, or you may move on to another.
Over time, the distress and negative emotions you feel regarding specific memories or thoughts should fade.
Phase 8: Evaluation
Your therapist will ask you to evaluate your progress. Then they will help you identify other targets to process using EMDR.
EMDR Protocol for Addiction
One of the root causes of addiction is trauma. This factor makes EMDR an excellent tool for treating people with addiction. EMDR helps patients get to the root cause of their sex addiction and helps them relieve their symptoms and triggers. EMDR helps people with sex addiction learn where their behavior originates. From there, clients can make healthier choices and regain their sense of control.
Feeling State Addiction Protocol
It’s important to understand the link between trauma and sex addiction. This relationship helps explain why people use behaviors that feel good to cope with traumatic emotions.
The Feeling-State Theory of behavioral addiction states that people create addictions when positive feelings become associated with specific objects or behavior. The link between emotion and behavior is a “feeling-state.” When that feeling-state triggers, the person uses the behavior to cope. After doing this repeatedly, an addiction forms.
Any behavior can bring on a feeling-state. So, there is a large variety of feeling-states. But once created, the feeling-state continues to exist.
Addictions occur when someone experiences an intense positive feeling while engaging in a specific behavior. For example, a person with sex addiction may experience a feeling-state from the act of having sex. In their past, they may have experienced an emotional high from sex. That created the feeling-state for that person, and now they use sex to cope with difficult feelings.
Addictions occur when a desired feeling and behavior get fixed together. EMDR can help break the link between that positive feeling-state and a negative behavior.
Benefits of EMDR
EMDR targets traumatic memories causing a person ongoing distress. And while the act of reprocessing those memories in EMDR treatment may hurt more initially, the brain will heal itself. It will store that particular memory in long-term memory. This storage allows the person to move forward because the memory is no longer as distressing as it once was. It makes those memories feel less emotionally charged.
Over time, EMDR can lessen the impact that memories or thoughts have on a person.
EMDR typically works faster than other therapies, with long-lasting results. Many people with PTSD no longer experience symptoms after as few as three to six EMDR sessions.
How EMDR Can Help Sex Addicts
Sex addiction generally stems from trauma. EMDR can help get to the origin of trauma and create long-lasting effects by unlocking painful events from the past.
Traumatic experiences EMDR may treat includes:
- Domestic Violence
- Sexual Abuse
- Childhood violence
- Verbal abuse
People with sex addiction often use sex as a form of self-medicating from traumatic events. EMDR can help a person break this coping mechanism.
How BAI Can Help
Begin Again Institute knows that sex addiction treatment isn’t one-size-fits-all. We also understand that it’s essential to treat the root causes of addiction, not just the symptoms. If you’re interested in learning more about the EMDR protocol for sex addiction, contact us .