As addiction sciences and brain studies have advanced over the years one of the prevailing connections we have made is with regard to the role of trauma and how it plays into those who demonstrate a substance use disorder.
One of the first things many addiction specialists will introduce to a patient or client when they first enter into treatment is what is called an ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) test. It consists of about ten questions regarding life experiences prior to the age of eighteen. The score is rated one through ten and the more yes answers one has the greater the likelihood of a number of mental health issues including depression, anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, as well as physical health related issues.
The test is simply a tool to help identify possible trauma that may still be playing out in the life of an adult. Most people will suppress or minimize trauma if they even have any memory of it at all. As trauma can be carried in the body before it is identified, it can also be eased and disarmed once it has been addressed and confronted. In the world of addiction treatment and therapy cooling the brain with proven modalities can be tremendously helpful in easing impulse behaviors, triggers, and the desire to harm oneself from a place of self-loathing and shame.
One of the modalities used at Wish Recovery for such cases is the use of something called, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy. This therapy that was initially developed to relieve the distress of traumatic memories and adverse life experiences has been highly effective in helping those struggling with substance use disorders as they resolve their shame-based relationship to substances as well as alleviating their response to personal trauma. Most substance abuse starts as a means of attempting to cope with traumatic experiences, painful memories, and negative perceptions about one’s self. Whether those memories are repressed or realized, EMDR has proven effective in alleviating the relationship to the trauma and therefore diminishing the potential need or desire to use a substance creating a path for a more effective opportunity to introduce other therapies eventually.
EMDR is done in eight phases and over time allows for the client to experience a significant reduction of anxiety ultimately reprocessing their relationship to the memories and events. At Wish Recovery we understand that substance abuse is often the result of emotional pain management that no longer works. Over time a person will only be managing the substance while the emotional pain of unresolved trauma persists which will continue to perpetuate the dependency and substance abuse. Eventually, the false belief that the substance will rescue them from their inner pain becomes evident leaving the suffering person helpless and hopeless in their quest for relief.
Therapies like EMDR are becoming more and more widely used as our understanding of the causality of addictive behavior becomes greater. Studies regarding the relationship between trauma and addiction have proven to us that we can’t treat one without addressing the other. An effective approach to treating a substance issue has to include therapies that address the source of the past pain. This is the difference between treating causality and simply addressing symptomology.
Ultimately, EMDR will not only alleviate past pain allowing the patient to put into context the events of their personal story, but will also allow for them to have the tools to address present distress in current painful circumstances as well as the events they may encounter in the future as they venture into their new life of recovery.
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