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How EMDR Helps Members of the Military Cope with Trauma & PTSD

While most people are unfamiliar with EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, it has actually been in use for several decades now. It was developed in the 1980s as a means of alleviating the psychological stress that’s caused by past traumatic events. Although it has been adapted to help others, it’s particularly effective in treating military personnel, who have PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

EMDR in a Nutshell

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy is a form of psychotherapy and it involves a guided reliving of past traumatic experiences. As you’re directed to recall the event that causes you to experience psychological stress, a therapist teaches you how to control your eye movements. Learning this type of control helps you minimize the effect that the traumatic memory has on your emotional state.

No one really knows for sure why controlling eye movements helps to manage psychological stress, but it may have something to do with distracting the memory recall process. Some believe that distracting the thoughts with voluntary eye movements helps divert the patient’s attention, so his or her full concentration is no longer focused solely on the memory. This minimizes the impact the memory has on the individual and reduces the psychological stress it causes. Over time, the memory will produce less of an emotional reaction, even when the individual is outside of therapy.

Benefiting from Therapy

Initially, this type of psychotherapy was used almost exclusively with military personnel, but, today, it can benefit anyone suffering from past traumatic experiences. After going through the eight step therapy, people with PTSD no longer have difficulty talking about their past experiences. They can talk more freely about the memories, which means other types of therapy will also be more effective. Successful completion of the process also helps individuals function better on a day to day basis.

Once the effectiveness of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy was seen in soldiers and others with post-traumatic stress disorder, therapists began adapting the therapy. They found that it could be used to help alleviate a number of other mental illnesses and psychological disorders.

Specifically, EMDR is currently used to treat patients suffering from:

  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Drug and alcohol addiction


The Eight Phases of EMDR Treatment

As previously mentioned, there are eight steps, or phases, in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy. Typically, the full treatment requires 12 individual therapy sessions, so patients should not expect a quick fix. A process of learning and adapting is necessary, so it will take time and dedication to benefit from treatment.

In Phase 1, the therapist will meet with you to discuss your history. This is an evaluation to determine how you have responded to past types of therapy. Additionally, the session will help identify specific traumatic events on which to focus future therapy sessions.

In Phase 2, the therapist will teach you new coping mechanisms. This may include deep breathing exercises, meditation that focuses on mindfulness, and other techniques.

Phase 3 requires you to discuss your past trauma in more detail. The therapist will need to know the specifics of the event, as well as the symptoms that recalling those memories produces.

Phases 4 through 7 will dive deeply into the actual treatment process. The therapist will encourage you to recall specific traumatic experiences, while also encouraging you to maintain control of your eye movements. In addition to instructing you performing specific eye movements, your therapist may also create tapping sounds, or ask you to perform other random movements. After a few minutes, you’ll take a break from reliving the traumatic memory. Instead, you’ll be asked to let your thoughts wander and discuss the first things that come to your mind. This provides you an opportunity to return to a more calm state, before returning to thoughts about the traumatic events in your past. As your sessions advance, the level of distress you experience over your past traumas will start to fade.

In Phase 8, you and your therapist will evaluate your progress. At this time, it may be determined that the therapy was successful and you’re ready to graduate from the program. Otherwise, you may have to return to Phase 3 and begin the process anew, possibly focusing on a different traumatic event from your past.

Regardless of the cause of your PTSD, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy can help you cope with the psychological stress of your condition. This process is particularly useful in helping soldiers, who have endured the horrors of war, though it can also be used to treat other causes of distress. Victims of abuse, auto accidents, and other traumatic experiences may also benefit from the therapy.

Simple Recovery is a world-renowned, California state-licensed substance abuse recovery center. We offer dual diagnosis treatment, so if you are experiencing both substance abuse and symptoms of a mental disorder, we can work with you to restore your happiness, health, and well-being. You do not have to continue living this way; there are many people here ready to help you.

Reach out to us today at 888-743-0490 to speak confidentially with an addiction counselor, or contact us online.




Is EMDR Therapy Used for Substance Abuse Treatment?

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a form of psychotherapy that has mainly been used to assist those who have experienced trauma. This type of therapy can help people who are experiencing panic attacks, complicated grief, disturbing memories, dissociative disorders, phobias, pain disorders, stress, and more. EMDR therapy itself is about 8 phases – involving treatment planning, preparation, assessment, desensitization, installation, body scan, closure, and reevaluation. During the therapy session, a therapist will ask the client to move their eyes to typically follow their fingers while the therapist guides them to take on a more confident, positive belief they would like to adopt regarding a certain situation.

EMDR can certainly be used by those in substance abuse treatment, because many people with substance use disorders (SUDs) have experienced trauma; in fact, that could be the very reason that the addiction started in the first place. A 2017 study assessed women with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and SUDs as they utilized EMDR therapy; 15 women participated, with half participating in schema therapy and the other half using EMDR. Eight sessions were provided to the participants total, and the researchers then evaluated them on addiction severity, alcohol and/or cannabis cravings, PTSD symptoms, intensity and depressive symptoms after treatment. Results from the study showed that EMDR reduced symptoms significantly – overall, participants found a major decrease in addiction severity and PTSD symptoms.

Another study published in 2018 in the journal Frontier Psychology evaluated the use of EMDR therapy on 20 participants with SUDs. Twenty other participants underwent regular treatment to serve as a comparison group. Results from the study indicated that EMDR was a very effective form of therapy, as there was a significant reduction in post-traumatic symptoms. Overall, EMDR can be a very effective addiction to substance use recovery treatment programs.

If you’ve been struggling with substance use, seek help today by speaking with a professional from a reputable treatment center to learn more about addiction recovery programs and EMDR. It’s never too late to begin your journey to recovery.

Simple Recovery is a world-renowned, California state-licensed substance abuse recovery center. We offer dual diagnosis treatment, so if you are experiencing both substance abuse and symptoms of a mental disorder, call us today at 888-743-0490 so that we can work with you to restore your happiness, health, and well-being. You do not have to continue living this way; there are many people here ready to help you.

Is A Person’s Sleep Process Changed by Using EMDR Therapy for Trauma?

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an integrative psychotherapy approach most often used to help those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) alleviate the distress associated with memories, panic, anxiety, and other emotional problems associated with past trauma. During the therapy session, a therapist guides their client into eye movement patterns or other forms of stimulation while a person recalls a traumatic event, to help a person obtain a different association with it. Clients are asked to replace negative beliefs surrounding the event with positive beliefs, and EMDR therapy helps them to do this. Examples of this are as follows:

  • Negative belief: “I am helpless”
  • Positive belief: “I am in control”
  • Negative belief: “I am powerless”
  • Positive belief: “I am strong”

After this, a therapist may ask the client to recall traumatic memories to see if there is any residual tension left in the body. If so, these physical sensations are targeted so the person can reprocess information to create a new association with that as well. The goal of EMDR therapy is for the person to fully accept the truth of their positive self-statement. This may further lead the person to take on other actions in their lives to help support their positive beliefs. It’s widely known that sleep can affect PTSD just as much as the symptoms of PTSD can affect sleep – how does EMDR therapy factor into sleep?

As a person begins to process their new beliefs more deeply, they may find that some of their symptoms of PTSD begin to ameliorate. Sleep difficulty is common for those with PTSD due to nightmares and, especially if the traumatic event happened at night – insomnia. EMDR therapy can be considered a non-medicated approach to sleep treatment. However, there are a number of things you can do to help improve your sleep:

  • Establish a set routine for when to wake up and when to go to bed
  • Go to bed whenever you are ready to sleep; don’t force yourself to stay awake
  • Create a very peaceful environment – find what works for you. This could include having a nightlight, turning on the fan, listening to calming music, etc.
  • Limit your naps during the day so that you are more tired at night
  • Exercise early on in the day to boost your body’s wake and sleep cycles
  • Try to manage your worries by seeing a therapist, using EMDR therapy, practice meditation, etc.

Simple Recovery is a world-renowned, California state-licensed substance abuse recovery center. We offer dual diagnosis treatment, so if you are experiencing both substance abuse and symptoms of a mental disorder, call us today at 888-743-0490 so that we can work with you to restore your happiness, health, and well-being. You do not have to continue living this way; there are many people here ready to help you.




Trauma Therapy (Including EMDR)

While experiencing trauma does not guarantee that a person will develop an addiction, research clearly shows that trauma is a major underlying cause of addictive behavior. Addictions often help dull the sensations of being overwhelmed that post-trauma changes create. Thus, these behaviors become a survival tool. Fear drives all post-trauma related behaviors. Trauma therapy works to resolve those fears.

While trauma is inevitably a part of the treatment process, especially within the setting of individual therapy, we recognize that trauma therapy is often times better suited in the context of long term therapy. In this spirit, we aim to begin the process while clients are in care with us.

Within the treatment setting, clients will be provided comprehensive education on what trauma is and how it effects the body and mind, thorough trauma screening, and, as needed, referrals to the best trauma specialists in the area.

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Which is Better: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing?

Thankfully, over time, technology and further research has provided us with more options now than ever before in treating a variety of addictions and mental illnesses. If one method of treatment doesn’t resonate with you, you will likely be able to try something else; however, in the quest to construct a customized treatment plan that will be as successful as possible, it can be challenging to consider your options. If you take part in a program at a reputable treatment center, you will have a wonderful healthcare team who can help you make these decisions based on their personal experience and expertise. If you’re questioning the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), the truth is, it depends!

EMDR is an integrative, psychotherapy approach designed to help clients alleviate distress from traumatic memories; therefore, this technique has mostly been used to treat individuals with anxiety-related disorders such as panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). With EMDR therapy, a clinician will teach you strategies for dealing with disturbing thoughts or images as they arise. From there, you will identify negative beliefs that have been weighing you down, as well as positive statements that you would like to adopt. Eye movements, taps, or tones are guided by a clinician while they lead you to focus on the strengths of the positive statements that you made earlier. This technique has been shown to help individuals shed inappropriate beliefs that have been holding them back.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a combination of both behavioral therapy and talk therapy and has been shown as an effective form of treatment for a variety of mental health concerns, including anxiety, depression, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder (BPD), psychosis, and more. If you do have PTSD or another panic-related disorder, either CBT or EMDR therapy could be great for you. You could even try out both if you’d like, depending on what you and your healthcare team decide.

A 2017 study published in the journal Frontier Psychology sought to test whether CBT or EMDR therapy was found to be more effective for panic disorder. Eighty-four patients with panic disorder were randomly assigned 13 weekly 60-minute CBT or EMDR therapy. Results from the study showed that both forms were equally effective – you can’t go wrong with either one. Speak with someone from a reputable treatment center today to learn more about these, along with other viable options for your mental illness or addiction recovery.

Simple Recovery is a world-renowned, California state-licensed substance abuse recovery center. We offer a variety of treatment options including hypnotherapy; call us today at 888-743-0490 so that we can work with you to restore your happiness, health, and well-being. You do not have to continue living this way; there are many people here ready to help you.






Can MDMA Assist With PTSD?

MDMA, also known as ecstasy, is a synthetic drug that acts as a stimulant and a hallucinogen. This psychoactive drug has been known to produce distortions in time and perception, boost in well-being, enhanced sensory experiences, emotional warmth, and increased energy. These effects are said to take place within 45 minutes of taking this drug, as an individual becomes “high” or “intoxicated”. Used recreationally, this drug had its place in dance clubs, raves, and more – but researchers are now questioning its potential use in the medical setting.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs when an individual has undergone a tragic event of some sort; approximately 8 million Americans experience PTSD each year. Symptoms include nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, depression, paranoia, increased heart rate, confusion, racing thoughts, insomnia, and more. Could MDMA be a potential solution? A 2018 study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry emphasized that MDMA has therapeutic potential, with the argument that enough evidence has been discovered that MDMA could technically be removed from a Schedule 1 status (no medical use) to a Schedule 2 status (next to other misused drugs that could have potential medical use). Why would MDMA be a consideration?

Other psychotherapies are currently in place, such as exposure therapy and cognitive processing therapy, alongside prescription medications. While shown to be very effective, some individuals do not find resolve. Scientists are saying that MDMA could be a potential solution.

A study that was funded by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, according to CNN, involved 22 veterans, three firefighters and two police officers, all of whom had tried various therapies for PTSD and were still said to have significant PTSD symptoms. Participants were diagnosed either 30, 75, or 125 milligrams of MDMA for two psychotherapy sessions. Results from the study showed that one month after the second MDMA session, 68% of participants who had taken higher doses of MDMA no longer qualified for PTSD. Twenty-nine percent of patients who took lower doses of MDMA no longer qualified for PTSD, and 67% of all participants no longer qualified for PTSD a year later. Does this mean MDMA could be part of our future in medicine?

Possibly. There are still many debates regarding this topic, especially since it is considered a psychedelic drug. If you have PTSD, there are still many therapy techniques that are effective – including eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR). If you’ve been struggling with symptoms of PTSD, seek the help you need today.

Simple Recovery is a world-renowned, California state-licensed substance abuse recovery center. We offer dual diagnosis treatment, so if you are experiencing both substance abuse and symptoms of a mental disorder, call us today at 888-743-0490 so that we can work with you to restore your happiness, health, and well-being. You do not have to continue living this way; there are many people here ready to help you.






First Responder Program

Law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMT’s, dispatch, emergency room personnel, and other first responders put themselves on the front lines of responding to crises and emergencies every day. Dealing with stress and trauma is a part of the job. Unfortunately, repeated exposure to highly stressful and traumatic situations is known to impact mental health and wellbeing in a myriad of ways.

Due to the very nature of their job, first responders experience more acute stress and trauma than the general public. In response to the high intensity of their jobs, drugs and alcohol use can become a means of coping, leaving First Responders at risk for developing substance abuse disorders along with co-occurring mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and stress disorders.

While the average civilian can experience a few traumatic events in their lifetime, first responders become accustomed to acute trauma, causing both physical and emotional exhaustion of the body and mind.

First Responders Treatment Program

First Responders Treatment Program is a program at Simple Recovery, a premier Southern California chemical dependency treatment program for adult men and women. After treating several first responders within our program, our team found that while 85% of first responders have experienced symptoms of mental health issues, the very nature of being a first responder prevents as many as 50% of these individuals from seeking mental health or substance abuse treatment.

With this in mind, we reached out to the leading First Responder Organizations in Southern California to better understand the needs and barriers for law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders to receive adequate treatment.

Today, Simple Recovery offers First Responders trauma-informed substance abuse and co-occurring mental health treatment designed with the help of First Responder organizations, respected addiction and mental health professionals, and strategic community partners. Our comprehensive curriculum combines substance abuse treatment with anxiety, stress and depression treatment, as well as incorporating family systems support. Our program was designed to help patients recover from trauma while increasing their overall well-being. We offer sobriety tools and healthy coping mechanisms to ensure a safe transition back to their careers and personal lives.

Barriers for First Responders in Need of Treatment

First responders risk their lives daily to protect and serve their communities. In their line of duty as caretakers, asking for help can feel daunting and unnatural. Often “being tough” is reinforced in their job culture, preventing many first responders from seeking mental health and substance abuse treatment that they need.

According to a 2017 survey of 2000 first responders, there are severe stigmas associated with seeking mental health on the job. Findings of the study showed:

  • 55% of first responders say their supervisor will treat them differently if they bring up a mental health concern at work.
  • 45% say talking about mental health concerns at work will make them appear “weak” to co-workers.
  • 34% of first responders say bringing up mental health concerns at work will prevent them from being considered for promotions.
  • Accompanying these mental health issues, nearly 25% of first responders suffer from some form of substance abuse and have twice the rate of alcoholism as the general population.

Our Mission

Our mission with the First Responders Treatment Program is to foster a compassionate and healing environment for those who dedicate their lives to protecting and serving. Our esteemed clinicians combine a multi-modal approach of proven and effective therapies and a genuine understanding of what it means to serve as a first responder to address the core components of addiction and co-occurring mental health issues.

Levels of Care:

Core Addiction Treatment Program Components:

  • Initial and Ongoing Assessment and Treatment Planning
  • Initial Psychiatric and Ongoing Assessment and Medication Management
  • Individual Therapy (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, EMDR Therapy)
  • Group Psychotherapy
  • Addiction Psychoeducation and 12 step Recovery Integration
  • Meditation and Mindfulness
  • Families in Recovery Program
  • Experiential Therapies Including Art Therapy, Music Therapy & Hypnotherapy
  • Relapse Prevention and Evaluation
  • Occupational Therapy

Specialized First Responder Treatment Programming:

First Responders Treatment Program offers first responders curriculum that is specific to their individual underlying issues and needs including:

Families of First Responders

Families of first responders often experience secondary trauma due to their loved one’s experiences. Simple Recovery’s First Responders Treatment Program offers families a four-day intensive family program that encompasses education, psychotherapy and interactive groups to address the family dynamics and unpack the impact your loved one’s addiction may have had on you. Families are also encouraged to participate in a bi-weekly continuing care family group on the second and fourth Thursday of every month.

Helping Our Heroes: Reach Out Today.

first responder program for police

Simple Recovery’s First Responders Treatment Program is dedicated to meeting the needs of America’s crucial First Responders. We recognize the sacrifices you make every day as a first responder and have developed our comprehensive treatment program to serve and heal you. Whether you’re struggling from alcohol dependence or drug dependence such as prescription painkillers after an injury on the job, the First Responder Treatment Program at Simple Recovery is here to help you overcome your dependency and get you back to optimal health and wellness.

Contact us for a confidential discussion about how our program can help get your life and career back on track. 888-743-0490

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Substance Abuse and PTSD

Substance abuse and PTSD, is a common co-occurring disorder seen in clients at Simple Recovery and at treatment centers across the country. The unbearable pain and debilitating memories that accompany PTSD can make drugs or alcohol look like an emotional relief – at first. However, the “solution” quickly becomes the problem, as individuals realize they are dependent on the substance and still experiencing the negative impacts of PTSD. Effective treatment involves addressing both disorders simultaneously in order to bring the individual to a state of wellness, wholeness and long-term sobriety. Read on to understand what PTSD and symptoms of PTSD look like, substance abuse related to PTSD, and treatment options.

What is PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a mental disorder that develops after a traumatic experience or event. Common triggers for PTSD include:

  • Exposure to military combat
  • Natural disasters (fire, tornado, flood, etc.)
  • Serious accidents, such as a car crash
  • Sexual, physical and/or verbal abuse
  • Extreme grief or loss

The event may happen to the individual or someone close to them. While most people experience a stress reaction to these occurrences, not everyone will develop PTSD. Those that do may find it very difficult to cope with the symptoms and turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of dealing with the impactful event, or series of events.

Symptoms of PTSD
Some people will experience symptoms of PTSD shortly after the event, while others will not see symptoms develop for many months or even years. Some of the most common symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Re-experiencing or reliving the traumatic event
  • Flashbacks or dreams of the event
  • Avoidance of situations or places that serve as reminders of the event
  • Negative feelings or feeling emotionally numb
  • Loss of interest in former enjoyable activities
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Hyperarousal, difficulty concentrating or sleeping
  • Chronic pain or other physical symptoms

People suffering with PTSD may have difficulty holding down stable employment or they may experience serious relationship issues because of their disorder. As a result, some individuals with PTSD may isolate themselves, feeling like no one can understand their condition. Unfortunately, isolation can also lead to the development of substance abuse over time.

Prevalence of PTSD and Substance Abuse
While not everyone diagnosed with PTSD will develop a substance use disorder, the likelihood is much higher for this group. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 20 percent of veterans with PTSD also have a substance abuse disorder. Nearly one-third of veterans seeking treatment for a substance abuse disorder are also diagnosed with PTSD.

A 2007 study published in Current Opinion in Psychiatry found that among people diagnosed with lifetime PTSD, the incidence of substance abuse disorders ranged from 21-43 percent. In the population without PTSD, that incidence went down to 8-25 percent. This study also found PTSD to be more frequent among females. Women typically experience PTSD after sexual assault or abuse, while the most common trigger of PTSD in men is combat.

The “Self-Medication” Trap
PTSD is an isolating disorder that can be paralyzing and seem impossible to recover from, particularly since many people with this condition feel as though no one else understands their situation or pain. This leads some to pull away from others, removing the ability to receive comfort and support from those closest to them. Instead, they may turn to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain. Known as “self-medicating,” this process can create more of a problem over time as the person becomes dependent on their substance of choice.

The problem is that instead of working on constructive ways to deal with the trauma that led to the disorder, drugs and/or alcohol replace the ability to cope with the feelings and anxiety that accompany trauma. This is a slippery slope that can cause substance users to abandon hope of turning to others for support. Instead of learning coping mechanisms that can heal trauma, the individual learns only to rely on the substance for escape.

The more substances are used, the more likely that problems related to trauma will multiply. The very substance that seemed to make the person originally “feel better” will eventually intensify the depression and anxiety caused by the trauma. Hostility and aggression may also surface as the person’s ability to control emotions and behaviors diminishes. At this point, if the individual wishes to regain control of their life and their sobriety, treatment will be required for both the substance abuse disorder and the PTSD.

Treatment can Work
While the darkness that comes from these co-occurring disorders may look nearly impossible to overcome, effective treatment is available for those in need. In most cases, chemical dependency will need to be addressed first, which may include hospitalization depending on the severity of dependency. Once an individual is clean of all abused substances, they have a much better chance at recovering from PTSD with therapies specifically designed for this condition.
There are a number of treatment options that can be used for clients with PTSD and substance abuse disorders. Here are some of the most effective options:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – CBT helps the client change how they think about the trauma and the effects afterward. Distressing thoughts are identified and replaced with positive ones. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can also be effectively used to treat chemical dependency, making it a good choice for co-occurring disorders.
  • Exposure Therapy – Exposure Therapy exposes the client to the trauma in a safe environment where they can learn to cope with the feelings that arise when confronted with their past. Mental imagery, journaling or visits to the location where the event(s) occurred might be incorporated into this treatment.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) – This rather new type of treatment teaches a client to focus on sounds or hand movements while discussing the trauma, giving them a safe way to explore and process the event.

This is just a handful of tools available to those struggling with dual diagnosis disorders. At Simple Recovery, we offer a wide range of treatment options to help clients in seemingly hopeless situations find new life and confidence to move forward and recover from trauma and substance abuse.
If you or a loved one are in need of help for these co-occurring disorders, help is available. Contact Simple Recovery today at 888-743-0490.