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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

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Treatment Approaches >> Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

What is EMDR?

  • Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) is an innovative, evidence-based form of psychotherapy.
  • It has proven effective in treating mental health disorders and co-occurring addiction.

At Trafalgar, we incorporate EMDR into our accredited treatment programs when it is applicable to our clients in Toronto and Ontario treatment centres.

This treatment method helps our clients build the strongest possible foundation for lasting recovery.

Function of EMDR

Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) functions differently from other forms of talk therapy.

The process focuses on the client’s emotional and psychological responses to memories of traumatic experiences. With guidance from their therapist, the client is enabled to process their responses without becoming overly distressed or resistant.

EMDR is highly complementary to other evidence-based forms of addiction treatment such as individual therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT).

Processing Trauma

EMDR clients discuss and process traumatic events while focusing on an alternative stimulus, provided by their therapist.

This helps them to fully process memories and responses associated with these traumatic experiences without becoming overly distressed or resistant to their natural reactions.

As addiction is usually related to underlying mental health disorders, EMDR can help a person coping with addiction to address the root causes of their condition.

Many people coping with mental health problems such as trauma, anxiety disorder or PTSD turn to self-medication in the absence of more progressive coping mechanisms.

This is a highly dangerous and addictive pattern which prevents the addicted person from truly coping with the underlying causes of their problems.

EMDR can help them to process traumatic events and their responses to them in a progressive manner.

The process also helps clients to establish coping mechanisms which function as healthy alternatives to self-medication.

A boy is looking through a small window. It is a representative of the power of EMDR therapy.


The EMDR process begins with a discussion between our client and one of our registered therapists.

The discussion focuses on the traumatic events in question and the client’s responses to them. Less detail about these events is required than in other forms of evidence-based treatment such as cognitive behavioural therapy and individual therapy.

EMDR is more focused on the client’s emotional and psychological responses than the events themselves.

The therapist and client will also discuss the way in which the process works. They will then establish a treatment plan and the objectives for each stage of that plan.

The EMDR Process

After the initial discussion, the client and therapist work through an eight-stage process using bilateral stimulation (this article features a comprehensive breakdown of the EMDR process). Bilateral stimulation involves the client focusing their attention on another stimulus while processing traumatic memories and their responses to them. The alternative stimulus is an action by the therapist such as side-to-side hand movement or hand tapping.

By dividing the client’s attention, the therapist guides them to fully process traumatic memories and their responses without becoming resistant to them or overly distressed by them. For clients coping with conditions such as anxiety disorder or PTSD, EMDR allows them to process thoughts and emotions with dedicated support in a controlled environment. This helps the client to cope with the underlying causes of their addiction and to identify healthy coping mechanisms in place of self-medication.

EMDR is a powerful component of Trafalgar’s evidence-based treatment.

This therapy is used both in our inpatient, outpatient and online treatment programs.

We look forward to seeing it benefit you in your journey to recovery.

Start your recovery today by visiting our admission page.

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