Is There Real Hope in EMDR? 

Is There Real Hope in EMDR? 

In Addiction by Tree House Recovery

Our recovery is highly dependent on the quality of the aftercare we receive. Not that every case is going to be the same, but there is a good chance that if you or a loved one is reading this has emerged from trauma that may be right at hand, or just beneath the surface. Although much work is done on the emotional side of addiction while in treatment, there are times at which there must be more done to approach the latent trauma and craving to self-medicate that trauma.

One growing treatment modality is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), a psychotherapy treatment that “was originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with memories.

But what can EMDR provide? 

“After successful treatment with EMDR therapy, affective distress is relieved, negative beliefs are reformulated, and physiological arousal is reduced. During EMDR therapy the client attends to emotionally disturbing material in brief sequential doses while simultaneously focusing on an external stimulus1.”

As a method of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the use of EMDR has been key in helping survivors of violence, emotional abuse, sexual trauma, and the transition of refugees from war-torn regions. Moreover, the benefits of EMDR as a way to curb addictive impulses have been shown to make marked improvements in many patients. In other words, EMDR was built for trauma recovery, but can also be a way to uncover common relapse triggers we didn’t even know were there:

“According to Shapiro, the standard EMDR protocol for treating addictions involves reprocessing the earlier (traumatic) memories that set the basis for the dysfunction (including contributing elements to the development of addiction), the present triggers that activate disturbance, and the development of future templates for more adaptive behavior, which is essentially a form of relapse prevention for this population. Strategies for addressing specific targets related to the addiction are a valuable addition2.”

In a study conducted for the Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, test groups were treated with EMDR, regular therapy, and post-study measures while others were given standard EMDR treatment without ongoing counseling (called “treatment as usual” or TAU):

“The most important study finding is that reprocessing the AM using a set of modified EMDR procedures was followed by a significant decrease in craving for alcohol posttreatment and at 1-month follow-up as measured with the OCDS. Compared to TAU, patients who received two sessions of EMDR in addition to TAU reported a significantly greater decrease in craving after the termination of inpatient treatment as well as during a one-month follow-up. This finding is also reflected in the between-group difference in relapse rates, as fewer patients receiving EMDR relapsed2.


At Tree House Recovery of Portland, Oregon we use cutting-edge techniques in individualized programs to help men achieve freedom from addiction and triggering behaviors. Taking a holistic, sustainable approach to the inner and outer effects of addiction ensures you or your loved one will emerge with the confidence and skills to manage your addiction independently. No one is beyond help; our Admissions Counselors are available 24/7 at (503) 850-2474