EMDR- Fast Relief for PTSD and Addiction

EMDR therapy is effective in treating both PTSD and addiction. Read on to find out what it involves. 

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Addiction is a terrible disease. It is often caused by an existing mental issue. Fortunately, various therapies can treat both addiction and its underlying cause. One of these therapies is EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). EMDR for PTSD alleviates the stress associated with traumatic memories making it effective in treating PTSD and addiction that may be caused by it.1

Read on to find out more about EMDR therapy and how it can help you overcome your dependency issues.

How Does EMDR Work?

EMDR therapy involves a therapist moving his or her hands in front of a patient’s face and asking the patient to track the movements with their eyes. While this process is occurring, the patient will be asked to recall disturbing events and how these events made them feel on an emotional and physical level. Gradually, the therapist will guide the patient to more pleasant thoughts.1

Some therapists will use alternates to hand movements such as playing musical pieces or toe-tapping. After the treatment, the therapist will ask the patient how they are feeling. The hope is that the patient will feel less distressed after each session.

Bilateral Stimulation

Bilateral stimulation is often integrated into EMDR therapy. It involves using something you can hear, feel, or see to cross the body in a rhythmic pattern. For example, the patient may place their hands on specific body parts and tap them lightly during therapy. It is meant to promote relaxation.

Working Memory

Working memory refers to the small amount of information that is held in the mind and used to execute cognitive tasks. It is a type of short-term memory. It is often measured to determine the effects of EMDR therapy.2

EMDR Tappers

EMDR tappers are used in bilateral stimulation to produce the rhythmic pattern needed for relaxation.

How Fast Does EMDR Therapy Work?

Every individual will react differently to EMDR therapy. Generally, sessions last sixty to ninety minutes and it can take three to twelve sessions to get the brain rewired.

EMDR Therapy Statistics

EMDR therapy has been shown to have positive results. Here are some statistics to consider.3

  • According to the results from one Veteran’s Affairs facility, EMDR for PTSD is effective showing a 78% reduction in symptoms among veterans.
  • A study conducted at Kaiser Permanente showed the 100% of single trauma sufferers and 77% of multiple trauma sufferers had no PTSD symptoms after six EMDR sessions.
  • A randomized study showed that rape victims experienced PTSD relief after three ninety-minute EMDR trauma therapy sessions.
  • EMDR has been shown to relieve trauma brought on by natural disasters. Studies were conducted on people who experienced earthquakes and aftershocks in Italy and Mexico. Research showed that EMDR therapy produced a reduction of symptoms. A twelve-week follow-up showed the effects of the therapy were long-lasting.


We can see that EMDR for PTSD is effective in reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety, meaning that EMDR for addiction is also beneficial. Many people dealing with PTSD turn to drugs to self-medicate. With EMDR, they can treat the underlying cause of addiction and break their dependence issues. EMDR therapy can also treat panic attacks, eating disorders, and anxiety issues.

EMDR Side Effects

EMDR side effects tend to be mental as opposed to physical. EMDR side effects may include:

What Does an EMDR Therapy Session Look Like?

EMDR for addiction therapy sessions usually takes sixty to ninety minutes. During that time the therapist engages in some sort of repetitive movements such as hand waving, tapping, or musical stimulation for the benefit of the patient while the patient is made to recall disturbing images.

The idea is that the relaxing movement will combine with the memories of the trauma to make them less disturbing.

Who Performs EMDR Therapy?

EMDR therapy is provided by an EMDR certified therapist. The doctor must have a valid license in the mental health care profession, and they must go through an EMDRIA training program.

EMDR for Addiction

Many people who deal with trauma turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. They may be too scared to reach out for help because it requires living out their traumas. Instead of seeing a therapist, they dull the pain with toxic substances and eventually become addicted.

EMDR treats PTSD, an underlying cause of addiction. When patients enter a rehab facility, they undergo detox to eliminate toxic substances from their bodies. Then they receive EMDR for PTSD. The therapy reduces symptoms, so they no longer feel the need to drink or do drugs.


There are many steps involved in EMDR for PTSD. These include the following:


Before EMDR therapy begins the therapist evaluates the patient’s profile to determine how well they can tolerate exposure to traumatic memories to make sure they are not pushed too far during sessions. They will then work with the patient to build a trustworthy and positive relationship which is necessary for making the therapy successful. They will provide the patient with hand motions and safe words they can use if they become overwhelmed.


Assessment involves the therapist identifying the memories that are causing PTSD symptoms. He or she will need to familiarize themselves with every minute detail of the traumatic incident to make a breakthrough.

VOC Scale

The VOC scale is used to rate the patient’s feelings on a scale from one to ten. It measures how disturbed the client is feeling during a therapy session.

SUD Scale

The SUD scale measures the level of distress a patient is feeling before and after processing traumatic memories, which helps them assess how well the therapy is working.


During this phase of therapy, therapists will attempt to desensitize patients from trauma by using relaxation techniques. The goal is to relieve stress reactions like nausea, rapid heart rate, stomach problems, and profuse sweating.


Installation is meant to encourage positive thoughts and help the patient build strength. The idea is not to have the patient forget the traumatic incident but to get them not to have severe negative reactions when it comes up in their memory.

Body Scan

A body scan is a meditative technique that involves the therapist scanning the patient’s body to make sure they are not experiencing unpleasant physical sensations when recalling the event.


Closure occurs at the end of every EMDR session. It ensures the patient leaves each session feeling happier and less weighted down by traumatic incidents.


Subsequent sessions start with a re-evaluation. It helps the therapist determine how the patient has been progressing since the last session.

Inpatient Rehab with EMDR Therapy

If you are dealing with addiction due to PTSD, inpatient rebab with EMDR therapy may be the best solution.

A rehab facility will start with a detox session to rid your body of harmful chemicals. During this time, a patient will feel withdrawal symptoms that will make them want to use again.

The facility will provide a medical professional to oversee the detox process. They will make the patient as comfortable as possible and have medications on hand to relieve symptoms. They will provide supervision to see to it that the patient does not relapse.

Once the patient is clean, they will be made to attend EMDR therapy. This may be used on its own, or it may be combined with other therapies. The facility will work out a customized plan that is suited to the patient’s needs.

The goal of therapy is to determine the underlying cause of addiction, PTSD, or other disorders and encourage healthy coping mechanisms to replace addictive behavior.

After the patient completes the residential portion of rehab, they return to the outside world. However, the facility will continue to provide therapy and support to ensure relapse doesn’t occur when they meet up with old friends and are deal with the pressure of the outside world.

How The PAC Program Can Help

The PAC Program is an inpatient rehab facility center that takes a three-phase approach that sets us apart. The first phase is the residential phase. After going through assisted detox, patients follow a customized therapy plan that may include EMDR. We will target the underlying causes of addiction and replace them with healthy coping behaviors.

The next phase is the transitional phase. At this juncture, we let patients integrate with the ‘real world’ while providing them with 30 hours of therapy a week. The final step is the launch phase. During this time, patients go back to their jobs and families knowing they have the support they need when they need it.

Addiction is a terrible disease that is usually linked to an underlying mental condition. If your addiction is caused by PTSD, EMDR for PTSD can be effective in relieving your anxiety and your dependency issues. It will allow you to be happier in your personal and professional life.

Why deal with addiction when help is available? The PAC Program is here when you are ready to reach out. Call today and take a positive step in starting over.

If you or a loved one needs help, please call us at
623-523-4748 and our team at Blueprints For Recovery in Arizona will help.

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