Reco Intensive Helps Patients Process Their Pasts With Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy

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To the uninitiated, the concept of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy may sound like a bit of a stretch. After all, how could something as simple as eye movements be the key to dealing with a condition as complex as trauma?

But eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, also known as EMDR, has been found to be a surprisingly effective way of helping patients with post traumatic stress disorder and similar conditions to effectively reverse the harmful neurological programming that can be caused by traumatic experiences. This is why it has become an invaluable part of therapeutic programming at Reco Intensive, a Delray Beach addiction treatment center widely respected for their comprehensive, holistic and empathetic approach.

Post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is one of the conditions most commonly associated with substance use disorder, which is the technical term for the disease more colloquially referred to as addiction. As many as fifty percent of people who experience PTSD also struggle with substance use disorder, and up to seventy five percent of people in substance abuse treatment report having also experienced a history of abuse and trauma, even those who have not gone on to experience full blown PTSD.

And, because the experience of having a life blown apart by substance use disorder can be traumatic in and of itself, it’s quite fair to say that most patients who come into Reco’s program have a fair amount of painful memories that need unpacking before they can move on to a healthy, sober life.

But what many people do not understand about the after-effects of profound trauma, which can constitute PTSD in their most extreme form, is just how physical as opposed to mental the damage they cause can be. 

This is due to the fact that during a traumatic experience, when survival seems to be threatened, the brain goes into an adrenaline powered “fight or flight” state that is totally distinct from the calmer and more rational mode of being in which we spend most of our everyday lives, literally shutting down the part of the brain responsible for all higher order thinking, including the processing of memories.

Traumatized brains then become hypersensitive to other threats in the environment, resulting in symptoms like hyperarousal, insomnia, and flashbacks, which throw the person back into that life or death fight or flight state even in the absence of a similar danger.

The transition into this state is associated with a physical change in eye movements that Francine Shapiro, the psychologist who pioneered EMDR, picked up on, realizing that her eyes would move rapidly as she recalled a traumatic memory. But when she focused on consciously controlling her eye movements during these recollections, she found that the anxiety associated with them reduced as well.

From there, she developed the EMDR process, which involves periods of history taking, planning, and assessment to prepare the patient for the physical desensitization process, which involves the therapist guiding the patient in exercises like specific eye movements designed to stimulate their brain as they recall their traumatic experiences, which in turn helps the brain to process it in a more comprehensive manner than it could at the moment of trauma.

This phase is in turn followed by the therapist’s efforts to help the patient to develop more positive thinking patterns and to reevaluate their experience and what it means to their identity now that it has become less associated with the physical patterns of trauma.

Though a lot is still unknown about how and why eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy works and how it compares to traditional therapy, there is some evidence for its efficacy for some post traumatic disorder and substance use disorder patients. Importantly, EMDR is just one of the many diverse services that Reco Intensive offers its patients, meaning that those patients who benefit may do so tremendously and those who do not will have plenty of other tools at their disposal when it comes to fighting their addiction.

These include more traditional forms of therapy like cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapy as well as holistic offerings like neurointegration, regular yoga practice, and adventure therapy. To learn more about EMDR, Reco’s other services, and whether their comprehensive intensive outpatient program may be the right fit for anyone struggling with addiction in your life, feel free to check out their website!

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