Cirque Lodge > Treatment > Clinical Care > Holistic Therapy > EMDR in Addiction Treatment

EMDR In Addiction Treatment

At Cirque Lodge, many of our clients come to us with traumatic backgrounds.

People often think of trauma in its most extreme form, such as severe abuse or witnessing death. However, trauma can come in many guises. What might not affect one person could cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in another.

The one thing that unites all our clients is that they struggle with addiction; however, we appreciate that everyone has a unique backstory, and we treat them accordingly.

We provide a wide range of therapies at our beautiful center in the Rocky Mountains, and this holistic approach means that no two clients receive the same care – it is tailored specifically for them Eye Movement Desensitization Reprogramming, or EMDR, is an interactive therapy that helps us relieve psychological stress. EMDR is a highly effective treatment modality for trauma and PTSD.

Research in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that ‘brief EMDR treatment produces a substantial and sustained reduction of PTSD and depression in most victims of adult-onset trauma.’

Understanding EMDR

Understanding EMDR

EMDR uses visual stimulation to help someone process and deal with their trauma.

During an EMDR session, clients will go back through their traumatic or triggering experiences in a controlled setting.

The goal of EMDR therapy is to process the past experience that is causing problems completely. A complete EMDR treatment aims to treat the lasting symptoms of trauma. It will focus on:

  1. Past memories
  2. Present disturbance
  3. Future actions

During the recollection, the therapist will direct your eye movements or use a series of taps. Often, traumatic memories can be overwhelming. EMDR is effective because it reduces the impact of recalling traumatic memories while still enabling you to process them.

Clients remain in total control throughout the session and can stop at any point. We understand that treating trauma is a delicate process, and we want your time with us to be as comfortable as possible.

EMDR is unique in the way that clients do not have to discuss traumatic memories in detail. EMDR targets the event and allows the brain to process the associated memories and emotions without delving into the subject. EMDR is especially useful for clients who have difficulty talking about their past.

EMDR sessions at Cirque Lodge usually last between 60-90 minutes. After each session, we ask the clients what came into their minds during the session. It might be that they experienced a change in feeling or belief about the event. EMDR can be a stand-alone treatment, and it also compliments the other therapies we offer. EMDR takes place in eight different phases over a series of sessions.

Phase 1: History and Treatment Planning

This period usually takes between 1 or 2 sessions at the start of therapy. It is a reflective practice we will refer back to during treatment if we uncover new problems.

We will discuss what the client thinks the specific problem is that brought them to therapy and how it manifests in behaviors and symptoms. We develop a customized treatment plan that looks at:

  1. The past events that created the problem – the target events
  2. The present distressing effects
  3. The skills and behaviors the client needs to learn for their recovery

Phase 2: Preparation

In Phase 2, the therapist will explain how EMDR works, how the sessions work, and what they can expect during the sessions.

One of the goals of this phase is to create a client-therapist bond. Our therapists teach clients techniques they can use to deal with emotional disturbances quickly outside of the therapy sessions.

Phase 3: Assessment

In Phase 3, the client approaches each of their therapy targets in an organized and controlled way. For EMDR to be effective, the client must process their past experiences. This does not simply mean talking about it. Processing means ‘digesting’ past problems and ‘refiling’ them with appropriate emotions.

Clients will choose a specific image connected to the target event and will select a statement that shows a negative self-belief about the event. Although intellectually, we can know that these are false, they can still affect us emotionally. These self-beliefs could be statements such as:

  • ‘I am bad.’
  • ‘I am dirty.’
  • ‘I am worthless.’

The client will rate their negative belief using a Subjective Unit of Disturbance (SUD) scale of 0 (no disturbance) to 10 (highly disturbing).

Clients then choose a positive statement that they would rather believe and assess the strength of that belief. The long–term goal is to increase the belief in the positive and reduce the belief in the negative.

Phase 4: Desensitization

This stage examines the client’s emotions, sensations, and responses to the target event. Often, traumatic events affect us in a complex way – this phase gives us a chance to resolve any similar events that might have happened.

During these sessions, the therapist leads the person in sets of eye movements, sounds, or taps until their SUD scale is lower than two, although ideally, it will be zero.

Phase 5: Installation

This stage focuses on strengthening the power of the positive belief our client has chosen to replace their original negative belief. The strength of their belief will be measured using the Validity of Cognition (VOC) scale.

The VOC uses a 1-7 scale, with 1 representing the lowest belief and 7 being the highest. Ideally, during this phase, the client’s VOC score for the positive belief will increase to a minimum of 5 or 6.

Phase 6: Body Scan

Following strengthening the positive cognition, the therapist will ask the client to think about the original target and see if any tension remains in their body. Trauma affects us on both a physical and mental level, so it is important to tackle both of these aspects.

If there is residual tension, the therapist and client will target these feelings for processing.

Phase 7: Closure

The goal of closure is to make sure that the person leaves each session feeling better than the start. If the client has not processed the entire traumatic event, our therapist will show the client various self-calming techniques to restore a feeling of equilibrium.

At Cirque Lodge, we encourage our clients to keep a journal to record their experiences throughout the therapy and keep track of which calming exercises were the most effective.

Phase 8: Reevaluation

Each session opens with reevaluation, which is vital for measuring the success of the therapy over time. Although our clients often feel better quickly with EMDR, it is crucial to complete the entire treatment course.

Understanding Trauma and PTSD

Understanding Trauma and PTSD

Trauma is defined by the OED as ‘a mental condition caused by severe shock, especially when the harmful effects last for a long time.’ Trauma is deeply personal. As previously mentioned, many people only associate PTSD with extreme, visible events such as death or abuse. However, trauma can have a variety of causes, including:

  • Witnessing death
  • Neglect
  • Sexual abuse
  • Bullying
  • Being marginalized
  • Natural disasters
  • Witnessing or being subject to violence
  • Medical trauma
  • Traumatic grief

According to the  European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 16% of children who experience trauma will develop PTSD. PTSD is characterized by:

  • Reliving the traumatic event
  • Experiencing nightmares or flashbacks
  • Feelings of isolation, irritability, and guilt

PTSD increases the likelihood of developing mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.  According to research in Addictive Behaviors, people with PTSD are also more likely to develop a substance use disorder. Substances and alcohol provide temporary relief from the symptoms of PTSD but do not treat the root cause.

EMDR for Addiction at Cirque Lodge

EMDR for Addiction at Cirque Lodge

At Cirque Lodge, we take a holistic approach to treatment.

Holistic means we consider every aspect of a client’s life. Substance use or other addictive behaviors are often like a band-aid to try and cover the main issue.

Untreated trauma impacts our lives in many different ways – and increasing the risk of addiction is one of them. Therapies such as EMDR allow us to treat the root of the problem.

Addiction does not have to control your life forever – recovery is possible.

EMDR in Addiction Treatment

Recovery is Just a Phone Call Away


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Cirque Lodge is a recovery retreat providing cognitive and experiential therapies, in the pristine natural beauty of Utah’s Rocky Mountains.

Cirque Lodge is considered among our colleagues, as one of, if not the premium drug and alcohol rehab facility in the country.
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