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How Technology is Being Used to Battle Addiction

By August 8, 2019 January 17th, 2020 No Comments
How Technology is Being Used to Battle Addiction

The only thing that can make someone quit an addiction is the person themself. But there are a lot of resources out there to help, and some of them have origins rooted in technology.

This isn’t to say that traditional methods for overcoming addiction, like therapy, are becoming obsolete. On the contrary, new technology based treatments are used to complement, rather than replace, these more traditional methods. Indeed, many therapists have readily adopted these new technologies for use alongside talk therapy and CBT.

What technologies are used to overcome addiction?

Technology and psychology have long been intertwined. Many experiments have been performed throughout history to prove theories or attempt to change cognitive processes. While many of these have failed to achieve convincing results, others have proved legitimately effective. 

In recent years, Trafalgar has adopted two technology based treatment methods – EMDR and virtual reality. In both cases, these technologies have proven to be effective tools for helping people deal with mental issues, like anxiety and PTSD, as well as addiction, like alcoholism. 

How does VR help with addiction?

Virtual reality enables therapists to create controlled scenarios in which clients are confronted with their addiction or fear. For example, someone with a gambling addiction in Toronto may be taken to a virtual casino, where flashing lights and stimulating sounds surround them, beckoning them to indulge.

Scenarios such as this permit clients to test coping mechanisms in a safe environment. Rather than traverse the floor of a real casino, where the stakes would be a relapse, clients can prepare for encountering the setting in real life, without being in danger.

VR has proven to be a more effective simulation than human imagination, which therapists formerly (and still do) relied on to create simulations – e.g. a therapist might verbally encourage a client to imagine they’re walking through a casino, and describe the sights and sounds they would expect to find.

And though it’s true virtual reality cannot fully capture the sensations of being in the simulated setting, technological advancements are bringing us closer than ever before. In addition to visual representations, therapists also rely on sounds and smells to increase the realism. For example, when VR is being used to treat an alcohol addiction in Toronto, the scent of whiskey or beer may be included in the simulation.

Therapists are also able to create interactions between virtual entities, like a bartender, and the client. This element further immerses the client in the simulation, making them an active participant with the agency to choose, rather than making them a fly on the wall that has no opportunity to engage with their surroundings. 

How does EMDR help treat addiction?

EMDR works differently than VR, and in fact takes a different route to helping with addiction. But the ultimate aim is the same. Whereas VR is used to let clients test coping mechanism and identify particularly hazardous settings, EMDR focuses on the underlying trauma associated with the addiction.

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a therapeutic tool that helps clients identify, process and discuss particularly sensitive memories or issues. This is achieved with the use of visual stimuli – e.g. the therapist moving their hand back and forth. 

If that sounds like hypnosis, it’s because there are aesthetic similarities. However, rather than attempting to subdue a person’s consciousness and reprogram them psychologically, EMDR uses a person’s focus on stimuli to unguard their emotions. 

By dividing a client’s attention, therapists are able to ask questions that may be especially sensitive or traumatic, and receive relatively unguarded responses. This is partly because the visual distraction dilutes the emotional anguish caused by certain memories or thoughts, and partly because the distraction shuts down internal mechanisms designed to protect the client from that anguish, like denial, repression and lying.

EMDR therefore helps both the client and therapist better understand the underlying mental and emotional causes of addiction, and enables them to work in tandem to help the client overcome the addiction.

How technology is integrated into the larger recovery process

VR and EMDR are both methods used to assist in recovery from addiction and mental health issues. They are not meant to replace traditional methods, nor are they miracle cures that make everything instantaneously better. These technologies are simply another tool therapists and clients have at their disposal. 

In either case, VR and EMDR are meant to help clients uncover and deal with the emotions, triggers, causes and trauma of addiction and mental health issues. Including them in the recovery process can be beneficial.

Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres

Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres

We offer residential and outpatient rehab treatment programs for addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders.