Acronyms and abbreviations can be difficult to decode. They are intended to shorten communication—whether written or spoken—so that we don’t have to use the full name of something over and over. But sometimes that doesn’t really help make things more clear. Sometimes it just makes things more confusing than they need to be.
What Does EMDR Stand For?
The numerous abbreviations used in medical, therapeutic, and recovery settings are undoubtedly useful for the folks who work in those fields, but they can be dizzying for a person trying to get help for a substance use disorder.
For example, you may have heard about a therapeutic approach known as EMDR. Truthfully, it sounds like a band that might tour with KMFDM. But, of course, it isn’t.
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is not a catchy name. But it can be a powerful tool for addressing trauma in a person’s past. Let’s take a look behind and beyond the abbreviation to get a sense of what EMDR can do to help a person overcome both past trauma and a substance use disorder that might have its roots in that trauma.
Taking a Look at Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
The EMDR Institute, Inc., defines Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing this way: “a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences…”
The institute goes on to say, “Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference…EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma.”
Long and short: EMDR offers healing from trauma caused by disturbing life experiences in much less time than other forms of therapy.
Taking a Look at How EMDR Works
The EMDR Institute offers this example as a way to understand how the therapy works:
“When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes.”
Obviously, we want to move toward healing rather than allowing the trauma in our lives to fester and cause pain. To advance that healing, EMDR therapy includes exercises—which, as the name of the therapy suggests, include eye movements—to make a radical change to the ways in which traumatic memories from the past affect a person in the present. In addition to the eye movements, the therapy often also includes the use of tones, tapping techniques, or both.
For each person undergoing EMDR therapy, a trained therapist designs a personalized approach that can provide significant improvement in symptoms for those who struggle with mental health issues like PTSD (there’s another one of those abbreviations—in this case standing for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). As noted, EMDR tends to achieve positive results in a much shorter time period than other therapies, though the length of treatment will vary from individual to individual.
As the EMDR Institute puts it, the therapy is all about giving the brain what it needs to reestablish and maintain good mental health:
“The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes.”
Taking a Look at the Benefits of EMDR
So what are the benefits of EMDR therapy (besides how quickly it works)?
One noticeable benefit is a boost to an individual’s self-esteem that can result from a better ability to leave past traumas in the past rather than carrying them into the present and allowing them to undermine the ability to move forward.
In addition, EMDR has been shown to reduce:
- the physical and psychological symptoms frequently associated with trauma
- the distress felt in connection with disturbing or difficult memories
- the power of triggers connected with trauma—both in the present and
- the future
- the likelihood of relapse for those working to maintain hard-won sobriety
At Cottonwood, We Don’t Keep EMDR on the QT or the DL
EMDR is one of the many tools and resources the staff at Cottonwood is able to use to help you (or a loved one) recover from a substance abuse disorder and commit to a life of lasting sobriety. Addressing and lessening the impact of underlying trauma can be an absolutely essential step toward overcoming a substance use disorder.
At Cottonwood, we offer personalized, compassionate care—as well as the expertise necessary to help you with co-occurring mental health disorders that may be among the underlying causes of your struggles with drugs or alcohol. EMDR may be extremely effective in helping you or your loved one escape the grip of the past. Once you are better able to focus on the present, you will be better able to leave drugs and alcohol in the past as you create a brighter future for yourself.