Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

What is EMDR therapy? How eye movement desensitization and reprocessing used in treatment for substance abuse? Learn more about how trauma-informed EMDR sessions can help those struggling with PTSD, trauma, and stress during rehab.

EMDR is a trauma-focused therapy offered at South Coast Behavioral Health. As a safe and effective treatment for PTSD, our licensed and certified therapists help clients process and heal from the painful effects of trauma during EMDR therapy.

In treatment for substance abuse, EMDR can help individuals address underlying mental health issues that may have contributed to the development of an addiction. This evidence-based therapy technique can be particularly useful in helping clients address trauma before, during, and after the addiction recovery process.


What Is EMDR?

EMDR, or eye movement desensitization reprocessing, is an incredibly powerful therapy technique that focuses on the controlled exploration of trauma. Held in a safe and secure environment, this therapy is useful for those who want to process unresolved trauma and regain control over their lives. The therapy involves the client following a therapist’s moving finger or hand with their eyes while simultaneously reflecting on a traumatic experience or feeling state. 

Created as a way to safely explore trauma, EMDR assists in reducing negative feelings linked with recollections of traumatic events. Unlike most forms of cognitive behavioral therapy, EMDR concentrates less on the traumatic event or situation and more on the disruptive emotions that emerge from the event. To maintain a sense of safety, this form of trauma therapy incorporates eight distinct phases to assist clients in processing traumatic events at their own pace.

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What Does EMDR Treat?

EMDR has proven results in treating post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, nicotine dependence, and drug addiction. EMDR psychotherapy practices use a specific style of hypnotic induction and hypnosis that has evidence-based research to support its efficiency in dealing with trauma and addiction.


EMDR is commonly used to treat:

After speaking with our licensed and certified therapists, clients can participate in EMDR for anxiety which can assist them in healing from the physical and emotional effects that arise during stress-inducing situations. Our EMDR-certified therapists also utilize EMDR therapy for PTSD, assisting clients who have experienced traumatic events such as military combat, physical assault, sexual assault, and car accidents.

What Are The Benefits of EMDR Therapy?

With the help of an EMDR-certified therapist, you can gain insight into yourself and develop skills that will allow you to better cope with life’s stressful or anxious moments. The techniques that you learn during EMDR therapy can be used long-term to reduce symptoms and improve overall well-being.

Benefits of EMDR therapy can include:

Overall, EMDR therapy is an effective way for individuals to lessen symptoms of stress, trauma, and anxiety. By engaging in EMDR therapy, you can begin to process traumatic memories and feel more comfortable with your emotions as a whole.


The Eight Phases of EMDR

Like all other types of therapy, EMDR does not cause an overnight healing process. Whether you’re seeking treatment for PTSD, anxiety, depression, or substance use disorder, the process usually takes about twelve separate sessions to work through the EMDR phases.

The eight phases of EMDR each play an important role in ensuring the safety and well-being of each client. As with all therapies that address trauma, it is important that all practicing clinicians have an active EMDR certification. This certification ensures that clinicians can carry out the basic principles and safety measures built into the 8-phase therapeutic approach.

History and Planning Phase

During the first phase of treatment, your therapist will gather an accurate and up-to-date medical history. This background information assists our clinicians in the collaborative process of constructing an EMDR treatment plan that best meets your unique needs, preferences, and goals.

Preparation Phase

The preparation phase involves an overview of an EMDR session in which your therapist will explain the therapeutic process, steps, and techniques in great detail. EMDR-certified therapists also provide instruction on stress management and coping methods to safeguard against any adverse reactions to treatment. This preparation allows you to be open, comfortable, and well-informed during and after each session.

Assessment Phase

In the assessment phase, you and your therapist will work together to identify the most important issue that needs to be addressed during each therapy session. You will also participate in an overall assessment of your mental and physical state to establish a baseline prior to receiving treatment.

Desensitization Phase

In the desensitization phase, your therapist will guide you through focusing on a distressing memory while incorporating bilateral stimulation, such as gentle eye movements or soothing audio tones. These scientifically supported techniques relax your brain as you process and release the negative associations linked to the traumatic memory.

Installation Phase

During the installation phase, your therapist will help you “install” or associate neutral and/or positive emotions with the traumatic memory. This helps your brain create new, healthier pathways for responding to triggering experiences in the future.

Body Scan Phase

The body scan phase involves a brief period of relaxation that helps reintegrate any residual disruption within the nervous system. To help you relax, your therapist will ask you to focus on the sensations in different parts of your body and observe them without judging or reacting. These techniques help you to identify any residual physical tension or sensations related to the memory.

Closure Phase

After every EMDR therapy session, your therapist ensures that you are stable and relaxed. In this vital step, your therapist supports you in fully processing your experiences during the session. EMDR therapists also provide guidance on effectively managing triggers and stressors outside of therapy.

Reevaluation Phase

In the revaluation stage, your therapist evaluates your progress and helps you address any lingering negative emotions. This step presents an opportunity to gain valuable insights and reframe any unwanted thoughts in a way that promotes healing. To do so, your therapist monitors your symptoms and behaviors, offering new approaches or techniques as needed to provide you with additional support.

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What To Expect In EMDR Therapy?

During EMDR therapy, clients work with their therapist will determine the focus of the session, targeting a specific traumatic event or series of events to process. In doing so, you maintain complete control over the session so that you can work to reduce negative feelings linked to memories relating to trauma.

Over time, this technique is believed to lessen the impact that the memories or thoughts have on you. Reliving painful experiences is less traumatic when you are distracted, allowing you to work through them without negative psychological effects. In doing so, the client finds a clearer sense of focus through their eye movements.

During the session, your therapist also uses guided imagery and other relaxation techniques to help you process your memories and emotions in a safe environment. Depending on your needs and preferences, your therapist may also incorporate music or breathing exercises into the session to help you stay focused.

Once the session is complete, our therapists may also recommend various lifestyle changes to help you better cope with your anxiety or stress. This could include practicing relaxation techniques, getting more sleep, and taking steps to reduce any negative thought patterns that may be impacting your mental health.

What Is The Goal of EMDR?

The goal of EMDR therapy is to help clients resolve problems that are linked to their traumatic experiences, ultimately leading to a healthier functioning level of life. With our trained specialist’s help, clients can gain insight into how their trauma has affected them and learn techniques to help them better cope with any residual anxiety or distress related to the experience.

EMDR Therapy
Frequently Asked Questions

As is a specific style of hypnotic induction and hypnosis, EMDR has substantial amounts of evidence-based research supporting its efficacy as an adjunct therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder, nicotine addiction, and oxidized food addiction. For this reason, EMDR may be useful in reducing the magnitude of extreme drug cravings. With that being said, EMDR can be an effective and useful adjunct treatment for many people in early recovery.

EMDR treatment can involve a hand motion technique in which the EMDR-certified therapist prompts the client’s eye movements from left to right, similar to the movements of a pendulum. As clients follow the rhythmic movement with their eyes, they experience bilateral stimulation and experience a sense of relaxation. Engaging in this step of EMDR helps to prevent dissociation and panic while the therapist asks questions to re-engage the client’s memory of the trauma.

EMDR therapy sessions are typically not a substitute for traditional therapy offerings, but instead are a part of a comprehensive treatment program like the one facilitated here in Orange County. At South Coast, we offer EMDR therapy as one of our trauma therapies that complement the therapeutic healing process.

As one of the most studied treatments for PTSD, EMDR can help clients experience emotional freedom and healing from symptoms of trauma such as flashbacks or nightmares. Our EMDR-certified therapists will guide each client through the therapeutic process to help target and resolve emotional distress caused by traumatic events or experiences.

Treatment length is determined by the substance used, how long it’s been used, treatment usually lasts a few days to weeks. To assure long-term recovery, inpatient treatment may be for a few weeks as well. Depending on the client’s needs, outpatient therapy may continue.

A typical EMDR session lasts 90 minutes in which your therapist will guide you through the 8 phases of EMDR.

EMDR at South Coast Behavioral Health

At South Coast Behavioral Health, our California addiction treatment centers strive to provide comprehensive care that includes both traditional talk therapy and tailored treatments such as EMDR. Our holistic approach aims to treat each individual based on their needs, preferences, and goals for recovery.

Our EMDR counseling services at South Coast provide a calming atmosphere to assist in alleviating feelings of fear and apprehension as an EMDR specialist directs the clients in one of the many forms of bilateral stimulation.

These evidence-based practices help clients maintain their focus and sense of safety as they process repressed memories. By participating in EMDR therapy, our therapists work with clients to process trauma and lessen the severity of emotional pain related to a traumatic event.

We work with clients in an empathetic, supportive environment to achieve the best possible outcome from EMDR therapy. Our trauma-informed therapists also provide support and assistance with strategies for managing stress symptoms in everyday life, helping our clients build a strong foundation for recovery.

All of our addiction treatment services provide a safe space to explore emotions, thoughts, and behaviors related to trauma to gain a better understanding of how these issues are impacting life. We work together with our clients to identify their strengths and build upon those strengths as they move forward on their journey toward healing. 

If you’re still looking for more information, the best way to find the answer to “What is EMDR and how can it help me?” is to speak with rehab facility professionals. For additional information, call South Coast at (866) 881-1184.

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EMDR Treatment in California

As an EMDR treatment provider in California, South Coast provides evidence-based treatment modalities and support to help clients recover from substance abuse and underlying conditions such as PTSD. It can be overwhelming to take the first step in seeking help for addiction and trauma which is why we provide support every step of the way.

South Coast offers EMDR therapy at our addiction treatment centers in California:

We provide EMDR therapy during treatment at our medical detox and residential treatment centers in Irvine, CA. treatment program in Irvine, CA.

Learn more about our treatment programs in Irvine, CA

We provide EMDR therapy during treatment at our residential inpatient facility in Costa Mesa, CA.

Learn more about our treatment programs in Costa Mesa, CA

We provide EMDR therapy during treatment at our medical detox and residential treatment centers in Huntington Beach, CA.

Learn more about our treatment programs in Huntington Beach, CA

We provide EMDR therapy during treatment at our PHP and IOP treatment facility in Newport Beach, CA.

Learn more about our treatment programs in Newport Beach, CA

Our treatment centers in California offer a wide range of services and dedicated addiction specialists who will help you begin your journey. We believe in empowering real people to get real, lasting results in recovery. Contact us today to get started!

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