Use of EMDR with co-occurring PTSD and substance use: A case study


Purpose: This case study examines the impact of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) on relapse rates and management of trauma symptoms in an individual with co-occurring substance use disorder and PTSD. Background - Substance dependence (SUD) and co-occurring posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) represent an area of growing concern for treatment and management of symptoms from the perspective of stakeholders. The lifetime impact of SUD includes the risk of contact with the legal system, decreased quality of life, and increased risk for homelessness and impoverished existence as the disease process worsens. In addition, a history of trauma predisposes victims to substance abuse. EMDR allows for processing of the disturbing memories and transition of maladaptive themes and cognitive distortions to more positive outcomes, which results in more effective resolution of presenting symptoms (Solomon & Shapiro, 2008).

Method: The treatment of complex childhood trauma and SUD in an adult male is reviewed in detail. The Adaptive Information Processing Model was utilized to implement EMDR over eight weeks. The participant received substance abuse treatment via group therapy with primary focus on relapse prevention while engaging in weekly EMDR. The Posttraumatic Stress Diagnostic Scale was completed at pre-treatment, during treatment and post-treatment. Relapse rates were monitored via urine toxicology screenings weekly.

Results: Trauma symptoms and relapse rates declined by 50%.

Conclusion: There was a positive relation






Dilice Robertson
Joyce Shea

Original Work Citation

Robertson, D., & Shea, J. (2015, August). Use of EMDR with co-occurring PTSD and substance use: A case study. Poster presented at the 20th EMDR International Association Conference, Philadelphia, PA



“Use of EMDR with co-occurring PTSD and substance use: A case study,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed June 13, 2021,

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