Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: Treating trauma and substance abuse


Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a new psychological methodology that has been applied to a wide range of psychological disorders. Clinical reports over the past three years indicate that it is an important addition to the treatment of substance abuse. EMDR offers a structured, client-centered model that integrates key elements of intrapsychic, behavioral, cognitive, body-oriented, and interactional approaches. Treatment effects are quite rapid and, during an individual session, the therapist may witness accelerated processing of information involving a shift of cognitive structures (including the assimilation of positive beliefs) along with the desensitization of attendent traumata. The application of EMDR apparently stimulates an inherent physiological processing system that allows dysfunctional information to be adaptively resolved, resulting in increased insight and more functional behavior. The judicious use of EMDR includes a comprehensive client history and extensive preparation, allowing the client to deal with the high levels of disturbance often engendered by the treatment itself. After the inauguration of a sufficient therapeutic alliance, adequately addressing potential issues of secondary gain, and appropriate client stabilization, EMDR may be used to ameliorate the effects of earlier memories that contribute to the dysfunction, potential relapse triggers, and physical cravings. In addition, EMDR is used to incorporate new coping skills and assist in learning more adaptive behaviors. Other potential targets for reprocessing include treatment noncompliance, ambivalence about abstinence, and present crises. Finally, EMDR should be used on this clinical population only by a trained clinician who is educated and experienced with this problem area.






Francine Shapiro
Silke Vogelmann-Sine
Larry F. Sine

Original Work Citation

Shapiro, F., Vogelmann-Sine, S., & Sine, L. F. (1994, October-December). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: Treating trauma and substance abuse. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 26(4), 379-391. doi:10.1080/02791072.1994.10472458



“Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: Treating trauma and substance abuse,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed August 1, 2021, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/17604.

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