Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing Therapy 

Individual therapy sessions at Holdfast Recovery are provided by Christian clinicians, that are trained in the treatment of trauma including: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR), and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Our clients receive Trauma Informed Treatment with a Cognitive Behavioral Approach, as we understand that there is a high co-occurrence between substance use and trauma. Research has shown that 95% of adults that struggle with substance use disorders, also report a history of trauma and/or trauma-related distress, Atkins, 2014. The treatment at Holdfast Recovery is individualized to meet each client where they are at.

(EMDR) plays a central role in our treatment of addiction. Here at Holdfast Recovery we understand the revolving door that is often associated with Substance Use Disorders, SUD, as most treatment modalities do not address the underlying problems that lead to SUD in the first place, and far too often lead to relapse.

EMDR Therapy originated in the late 1980’s by Francine Shapiro. EMDR Therapy is an evidenced-based treatment for traumatic or distressing memories. EMDR Therapy is an information processing therapy, that uses the brain’s natural healing process, as God has gifted every body with a remarkable ability to heal itself under the right condition.

Eight Phases of EMDR Therapy

EMDR Therapy uses an eight-phase approach. The time it takes to get through each of the eight stages of EMDR trauma therapy for addiction depends on the individual, so there’s no pressure to succeed in a certain amount of time. It helps you to subconsciously process experiences from your past that are causing disturbances in your present. This lets you set goals and make plans for the future, with traumatic memories stored appropriately.

Phase One: Your History

In the first phase of EMDR trauma therapy for addiction, the therapist gets a detailed overview of your past, although you don’t need to go into detail about specific traumatic events. One of the reasons many clients like EMDR is because painful trauma is processed without the need to talk about it extensively.

During this stage, you and the therapist identify the targets for your therapy sessions. This includes the events from the past that have led to your current issues, current situations that cause you distress and skills and outcomes you desire for the future.

Phase Two: Preparation

Preparation is mainly about building a bond of trust between yourself and the therapist. It also gives you a detailed understanding of how EMDR trauma therapy for addiction works.

Phase Three: Processing

Next, you’ll be asked to create a mental image from the targeted event, then choose a statement that describes how it makes you feel. This could be about feeling helpless, worthless, guilty or unlovable. Finally, you pick a positive self-belief to replace the negative one with.

The therapist asks you the extent to which you believe the positive statement, between one and seven. Additionally, you’ll score the negative comment a mark between one and 10. The overall aim is to raise the first grade — the VOC — and lower the latter — the SUD.

Phase Four: Desensitization

During this stage, the therapist uses taps, sounds and eye movements to resolve the feelings brought up by the negative belief. They’ll use the SUD to measure how effectively the process is working.

Phase Five: Installation

During installation, the focus is on cementing the positive belief in your mind as a replacement for the negative one. During this stage, the therapist also instills the concept that you are in control of your actions and future. They use the VOC to measure your progress through this stage.

Phase Six: Evaluation

The trauma is considered to be processed correctly when the body no longer reacts with tension. EMDR trauma therapy for addiction is so effective because it doesn’t just try to make you understand positive self-beliefs on an intellectual level; it actually imprints these ideas in your subconscious.

Phase Seven: Closure

Closure is vital at the end of therapy, just as it is at the end of each session. The therapist makes sure you feel better than when you started. They’ll teach you self-soothing techniques and encourage healthy behaviors like journaling.

Phase Eight: Reevaluation

During this stage, you look back over what you’ve done and reaffirm your positive intentions for the future.

Using EMDR to Treat Addiction

Far too often people mistakenly believe that events are somehow unimportant if they don’t meet a certain standard or level of distress. Many events can be traumatic or distressing because of the personal significance to the individual, as well as their personality and temperament.

Because EMDR Therapy focuses on personal experience, it downplays what a therapist or others think of an event, and instead deals directly with how the experience affected the client. EMDR Therapy comprehensively identifies and addresses experiences that have overwhelmed the brain’s natural resilience or coping ability, which generate traumatic symptoms or coping strategies such as: flashbacks, depression, anxiety, panic, insomnia, isolating behaviors, and self-medication with drugs and alcohol.

EMDR is used to assist clients as they reprocess traumatic or distressing memories until they are no longer psychologically troublesome. Our clinicians assist clients as they attend to past experiences that have set the groundwork for their addiction, and dysfunctional emotions, beliefs, and sensations, with the positive experience needed to enhance future adaptive behaviors and mental health.


1. Atkins, C. (2014). Co-occurring disorders: Integrated assessment and treatment of substance use and mental disorders. Eau Claire, WI: PESI Publishing and Media.