Can EMDR Therapy Help with Addiction: How it Works?

Can EMDR Therapy Help with Addiction

Can EMDR Therapy Help with Addiction: How it Works?

Can EMDR Therapy Help with Addiction: Addiction is a complex and pervasive issue with a global impact. Treatment for certain conditions can be complicated because of the many aspects that must be considered.

Although traditional treatments like therapy and medication are widely used, there is a growing interest in newer therapies that have the potential to be more effective in treating addiction. 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an evidence-based therapy that targets traumatic experiences underlying addiction, and it has shown promising results in helping individuals overcome addiction and lead fulfilling, sober lives. 

This comprehensive guide will explore EMDR therapy, including its mechanisms, effectiveness, and application in addiction treatment. 

Table of Contents

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a form of psychotherapy that aims to help individuals cope with the distress and negative emotions that arise from traumatic memories. 

EMDR is an effective treatment for various mental health conditions and was developed in the late 1980s by psychologist Francine Shapiro. 

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy approach that helps individuals process and reframe traumatic experiences. It uses various techniques, such as eye movements, auditory or tactile stimulation, and guided imagery. 

During EMDR therapy, a trained therapist collaborates with the client to identify specific traumatic memories, related thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. 

The client uses structured exercises to process and integrate experiences, reducing distress and improving symptoms. 

EMDR is an evidence-based therapy proven to be safe and effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and addiction. 

It has helped many individuals conquer the adverse effects of traumatic experiences and regain control and well-being in their lives. 

How Does EMDR Work?

EMDR therapy is based on the idea that traumatic experiences can get “stuck” in the brain, leading to negative thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. 

During an EMDR session, the therapist guides the client through bilateral stimulation exercises. This can involve following the therapist’s hand movements with the eyes or listening to alternating auditory tones or taps. 

Bilateral stimulation is believed to aid in processing traumatic memories by triggering the brain’s natural adaptive mechanisms. 

This enables people to reprocess their traumatic memories, integrate them into their existing memory network, and reduce any associated emotional and physiological distress. 

How Can EMDR Help Treat Addiction?

Addiction frequently occurs along with underlying trauma, unresolved emotional issues, or coping strategies. 

EMDR therapy provides a unique approach to addressing underlying factors, making it a promising treatment for addiction recovery. 

Here’s how EMDR can help in the treatment of addiction: 

  1. Resolving Underlying Trauma: Many individuals struggling with addiction may have experienced trauma. EMDR therapy allows clients to process and resolve traumatic memories, reducing emotional distress that may contribute to substance use. 
  2. Targeting Negative Beliefs and Emotions: Addiction is often driven by negative beliefs and emotions such as shame, guilt, and worthlessness. EMDR helps individuals identify and challenge these maladaptive beliefs, replacing them with more positive and adaptive cognitions. 
  3. Addressing Triggers and Cravings: EMDR can be used to address triggers associated with substance use, such as specific places, people, or emotions. By doing this, individuals can develop healthier coping strategies and reduce the intensity of cravings. 
  4. Enhancing Emotional Regulation: Addiction often leads to difficulty regulating emotions. EMDR teaches coping skills and reduces the likelihood of relapse. 
  5. Increasing Self-Efficacy: EMDR therapy helps individuals process past experiences and gain control over their lives, increasing motivation for recovery and promoting long-term sobriety. 

How EMDR Addresses Addiction

EMDR therapy is a treatment that deals with addiction by focusing on the root causes that lead to substance abuse and dependency. 

This therapy helps individuals overcome addiction by enabling them to process and integrate traumatic memories, negative beliefs, and triggers. 

By doing so, EMDR can assist individuals in breaking free from the cycle of addiction and achieving long-lasting recovery. 

Here are some keyways in which EMDR addresses addiction: 

  1. Trauma Resolution: EMDR helps individuals process past traumas that may trigger addiction. By reducing emotional pain, they can avoid substance abuse. 
  2. Cognitive Restructuring: EMDR can help individuals challenge negative self-perceptions related to addiction and replace them with more positive ones, leading to healthier attitudes towards recovery. 
  3. Desensitization of Triggers: EMDR helps individuals reduce the power of triggers by repeatedly exposing and reprocessing them, lowering the risk of relapse. 
  4. Emotional Regulation: EMDR is a type of therapy that helps people regulate their emotions in a better way. This can help them avoid the need to rely on drugs or alcohol to cope with their feelings. By learning healthier ways to manage stress, anxiety, and other emotional triggers, individuals can control their emotions without turning to substance use. 
  5. Relapse Prevention: EMDR is a therapy that helps to address the underlying causes of addiction. It provides individuals with the necessary tools to avoid relapse in the long run. By developing resilience, self-awareness, and coping skills, individuals can overcome challenges and setbacks without resorting to addictive behaviors. 

Finding EMDR Treatment

Suppose you or a loved one are dealing with addiction and considering EMDR therapy as a part of the treatment plan. In that case, finding a qualified and experienced therapist specializing in this approach is crucial. 

Here are some steps that could help you find EMDR treatment for addiction: 

  1. Research Qualified Providers: Looking for an EMDR therapist in your area? Find providers with experience in addiction and trauma. 
  2. Ask for Recommendations: Contact healthcare professionals, support groups, or families for EMDR addiction therapy recommendations. 
  3. Schedule Consultations: When you have identified potential therapists, schedule initial consultations to discuss your treatment needs and goals. Use this opportunity to ask questions about their experience, approach to EMDR therapy, and treatment philosophy. 
  4. Assess Compatibility: It is crucial to have a sense of comfort and support from your therapist while undergoing EMDR treatment since the therapeutic relationship is a vital factor in its success. Therefore, take ample time to evaluate whether the therapist suits you and your requirements. 
  5. Develop a Treatment Plan: Develop a personalized treatment plan with your therapist that combines EMDR therapy with other evidence-based approaches to addiction recovery, such as counseling, support groups, and medication-assisted treatment if needed. 


EMDR therapy holds promise as a valuable tool in the treatment of addiction, offering a comprehensive approach that addresses the underlying trauma, negative beliefs, and triggers associated with substance abuse. 

By facilitating the processing and integration of past experiences, EMDR empowers individuals to break free from the grip of addiction and embark on a journey of healing and recovery. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, consider exploring EMDR therapy as part of a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to your needs and goals. 

Start EMDR Therapy Today with Wellspring Counselling

Connect with licensed therapists for EMDR therapy via video, messaging, or phone to unlock healing and nurture your mental health. 

Take the courageous step towards a brighter future by scheduling your online EMDR therapy session with Wellspring Counselling. Start your transformation today. 

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Wellspring Counselling is a team of certified counsellors and psychotherapists based in Greater Vancouver, BC.

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