What Is EMDR Therapy?

The fundamentals of EMDR were developed in the late 1980s by psychotherapist Francine Shapiro. At the time, Shapiro was working with individuals suffering from PTSD who had experienced severe trauma. In her findings, she noticed that when residents made lateral eye movements while explaining their traumatic experiences and feelings, they found relief from it.

Overtime, this practice progressed to affect hundreds of people. EMDR organizations have been developed to certify practitioners to conduct EMDR Therapy sessions, and numerous clinical studies have been conducted. In addition, the American Psychiatric Association and the U.S. The Department of Defense has recognized this therapeutic tool as an evidenced-based form of trauma treatment. Today, EMDR is not just used for PTSD, but various other issues, including substance abuse.

What Happens in an EMDR Therapy Session?

During an EMDR therapy session, the therapist will have the client recount different aspects of a traumatic experience that are associated with strong emotional reactions. During this time, the therapist will use stimulating sights where they may move their fingers back and forth, or use an EMDR light bar where an LED light moves back and forth, while the client follows the movements with only their eyes. Other practitioners use a handheld device that vibrates or taps the back of the resident’s hands.

These movements create the “Eye Movement” portion of EMDR, which is known as bilateral stimulation. When this happens, both sides of the brain begin to work together to process the trauma and negative emotions associated with the subject matter. This type of simulation happens until the resident reaches a point where they don’t experience the overwhelming flood of emotions and associations with the event.

EMDR For Addiction and Mental Health Issues

Many believe that addiction forms out of past negative life experiences and traumatic events. While not every traumatic event has to be life-altering, what’s traumatic to one person, may not be traumatic to another. These traumatic events can include being involved in a violent crime, witnessing a violent crime, sexual, emotional, physical and verbal abuse, natural disasters, the divorce of a parent, or an event such as moving to another country as a child. No matter what the case may be, it’s important to understand that these events all created disturbing reactions and feelings for the individual who experienced it.

Many believe that addiction results from a person’s inability to cope with that situation, turning to drugs and/or alcohol to cover up the pain of the trauma. These risk factors can also develop into mental health issues including anxiety and depression resulting in a dual diagnosis when paired with substance abuse.

EMDR Therapy can help treat and heal many of the symptoms associated with addiction and co-occurring disorders. Those with high anxiety, excessive worry, depression, and even processing cravings for alcohol and drugs, by using EMDR therapy to address other underlying issues, a psychological dependence on drugs or alcohol can be removed.

Benefits of EMDR in Addiction Treatment

One of the major benefits to EMDR is that there appears to be no side effects. Other benefits can include: 

  • Decreased anxiety and depression
  • Decreased emotional disturbance of the traumatic memory
  • EMDR offers fast results for the long-term
  • The phases are organized and structured

Phases of EMDR For Addiction

During EMDR, the entire treatment involves eight stages that involve memories, triggers, and future challenges. The eight phases include the following:

History and Treatment Planning – This phase typically happens in the first two treatment sessions. Information is gathered regarding the history and background of the client and target goals and objectives are addressed for therapy.

Preparation – Before starting EMDR, the therapist explains to the client what will happen during the treatment. A “safe place” is typically created to guide the client to positive feelings. This can help the client create comfort if a session is particularly uncomfortable.

Targeting the Memory – During this phase, numerous objectives are identified including discussing the traumatic experience and negative associations with it. This helps the client to develop a more positive approach towards a negative experience. The client and therapist work together to rate the current feelings surrounding the event and different approaches to handling the feelings. 

Desensitization – In this phase, participates in bilateral stimulation, and the eye movement technique is used. In this, the technique is paired with the traumatic event and emotions associated with it. 

Installation – The installation phase helps to reprocess the negative emotions by creating positive feelings around the event. The therapist questions the resident about the positive feeling to see if anything has changed. Following this, a new set of eye movements happens. 

Body Scan – Here, the therapist makes sure the client is not holding onto any stress or physical pain that is associated with the identified memory. If the client has any unresolved physical tension from the memory, a new set of eye movements are conducted.

Support – Once the actual eye movements have been completed, the therapist offers support towards the client. 

Re-evaluation – This is the final phase of EMDR treatment. At this point, the therapist and client review the process to make sure the objectives were reached and the strategies for coping were worked. If any more issues need to be addressed, the client and therapist return to the appropriate phase and continue to work through them. Once the objectives of therapy have been met, EMDR is no longer needed.

EMDR Therapy in Palm Springs

At California Behavioral Health, we encourage residents to feel empowered in their recovery. By taking part in EMDR for addiction treatment, residents can process traumatic events that may have contributed  to addiction. Our full range of services include this incredible therapy and many other modalities. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction or mental health issues, don’t wait. Call us today at 855-404-2172


  • My name is Matthew and I was a resident here at CBH from 6/22/2020 through 7/23/2020.. I just Graduated the program in 32 days and I am writing this because I am truly Thankful to them All.. I would like to Give CBH 7 Stars but it will only like me give 5.

    Matthew N.
  • I didn’t notice any weaknesses during my stay. They have an amazing team here at CBH. I never feel judged, I’m able to be open and vulnerable. I trust the whole treatment staff care about my sobriety. I truly feel the care from all staff members. They truly show that they care about me and my sobriety. I never feel pressured or rushed. Everyone on staff gives me respect. All staff members are always friendly, hear me out and are very professional.

    Jose C.
  • I came to California Behavioral Health when I was finally at the point where I thought life was no longer worth living. Once I got to CBH my whole life changed as I have never met more caring people in my whole life.

    Julie C.
  • The kitchen staff not only makes delicious food, but they take care of my dietary requests also. They go above and beyond to not only provide what I need but also what I want. The nursing staff here always know where I’m at and how I’m feeling. It’s not just a job for them. They show me that they care about my recovery. The doctors here care about my health not just for recovery, but also for when I leave here. The therapists here have been a major part of one of the biggest and best changes I’ve ever made in my life, for my life. My experience here has not only helped me to recover but also provided me with tools to remain so when I return home. Thank you for helping me find myself and for helping me to realize that I like myself and am excited about being myself, strong and with no slavery to addiction. This is an amazing place! I don’t know how you found such awesome employees. I never once heard a negative word come out of their mouths. Always happy and outgoing, even when some of the guests were being d-bags. This place is awesome, great staff, good activities and the food is so good.

    Cassandra W.
  • Let me start by saying that this place has saved my life as I had been struggling with alcoholism since getting out of college. I had tried numerous 12 step programs and always experienced somewhere that I always struggled to relate with. Once I arrived at California Behavioral Health, they welcomed me with open arms.

    Andy W
  • I personally feel I was given the best treatment possible not just for my alcoholism but my underlying concerns as well. I am very grateful for the chance I was given The atmosphere has always been positive and up lifting and for the most part the participants have kept me laughing to the point my jaws hurt. I’m grateful to be a part of a great group of people and as my time here will expire soon I will carry all of you in my thoughts and ❤️. From the first day I got here I felt comfortable and safe.

    Michael W.
  • I’m very great full to be here….Therapy & EMDR sessions have been amazing. I see a bright light at the end of this tunnel. The staff are incredibly caring, kind and it’s apparent it’s GENUINE.

    Lawrence R.
  • Thank you so much for everything you have done for me. I feel I have found Alissa again! Without CBH I wouldn’t be where i am today! <3

    Alissa G.
  • One on one sessions with my therapists were fitted to my needs. Comfortable living quarters and the chef’s made wonderful meals. Program allows me to have down time when I need it. I am treated like an adult.

    Jennifer E.

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