Getting to the Core Causes of Addiction and Mental Health Issues: What Are the Benefits of EMDR Therapy?

Addiction Recovery Publishing Nutrition November 26, 2023

Getting to the Core Causes of Addiction and Mental Health Issues: What Are the Benefits of EMDR Therapy?

When it comes to recovery, it is essential to have faith and take the next right step. It is also essential to be open-minded to new treatments and modalities that might help us recover. This includes eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.

There is an inspirational word on Hawaii’s Big Island: “HO‘OHANA.” This word represents how we value the work that we put into anything that we do and that anything we do, we do with vigor and purpose. No place should HO‘OHANA apply more than to our recovery.

The Importance of Individualized Recovery Plans for Healing at the Cellular Level

As much help as we receive from recovery professionals and peers in the community and as much support as we get from close family and friends, the truth of the matter is that recovery is an individual choice. Now, that is not to mistake the concept of choice as though addiction or mental illness is a choice; that stigma has been reduced significantly. Addiction and mental health issues are chronic disorders, just as any other biological disorder. 

However, just because addiction manifests in many different ways, ultimately, the choice is ours as to whether we are going to seek and accept help or not, and make no mistake, the choice to seek help for addiction and/or mental illness is one of the most powerful things a person can do. So that powerful effort should be met with an equally powerful promise: that the treatment plan we receive is specific to us and not just some “cookie-cutter” “one-size-fits-all” type of recovery. The type of recovery that rarely works, or at least rarely works, to help individuals achieve lasting healthy recoveries.

None of our mental health or addiction journeys are exactly the same. Even if they are the same diagnosis, all of the external factors that make us unique also play into how and where our journey has taken us. So, since none of our journeys before the treatment center are the same, why should our recovery journeys inside the treatment center be the same? The answer is that they shouldn’t. If we are to recover at the cellular level, we must do so with individualized recovery plans. These plans should also be multi-faceted and comprehensive.

The Importance of Comprehensive Recovery Plans for Healing at the Cellular Level

There is an old Biblical saying that goes, “Man cannot live on bread alone.” This means that we need more variety for our sustenance, and this does not just refer to food. In that instance, it refers to spirituality. But, in the context of recovery, it means that we cannot fully recover utilizing just one modality. A plan must be taken from all different arenas of the treatment world to create an extensive form of recovery.

There are three specific areas that a recovery plan can pull from. These are traditional mental health modalities such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), holistic treatment options such as meditation, yoga, and acupuncture, and experiential therapies such as nature immersion therapy and EMDR.

An Overview: What Exactly Is EMDR Therapy?

Many people become overwhelmed simply by the name of EMDR therapy, “eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy.” It can almost sound like something out of science fiction when there is no context or basis for understanding it. The truth is that it is a relatively straightforward, science/clinical-focused form of psychotherapy. It is also extremely safe.

The peer-reviewed Permanente Journal offers a very concise description of what EMDR therapy is. It explains, “Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is an empirically validated psychotherapy approach that medical personnel can employ to treat the sequelae of psychological trauma and other negative life experiences. Its ability to rapidly treat unprocessed memories of these adverse experiences has important implications for the medical community, as they appear to be the foundation for an array of clinical symptoms.” Also, “The therapy procedures can be used by qualified medical personnel to improve comfort levels and functionality in managing some of their most difficult cases in everyday practice.”

Now, the process of EMDR therapy is complex in its application, but it is relatively straightforward in how we as individuals interact and engage with it. So, how, then exactly does it work?

According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) clinical write-up, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy, “EMDR therapy focuses directly on the memory and is intended to change the way that the memory is stored in the brain, thus reducing and eliminating the problematic symptoms. During EMDR therapy, clinical observations suggest that an accelerated learning process is stimulated by EMDR’s standardized procedures, which incorporate the use of eye movements and other forms of rhythmic left-right (bilateral) stimulation (e.g., tones or taps). While clients briefly focus on the trauma memory and simultaneously experience bilateral stimulation (BLS), the vividness and emotion of the memory are reduced.” This process can be ideal for individuals struggling with issues of trauma.

Who Is EMDR Therapy For?

When asking the question as to who EMDR therapy is for, the best answer is that it is for anyone who wants to get to the root/core causes of their mental health and/or addiction issues. However, EMDR therapy has been shown to be particularly effective for individuals who have underlying trauma or individuals who are currently struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

EMDR therapy can also be highly effective for individuals who feel less comfortable in a traditional psychotherapeutic session (“talk” therapy), as they merely have to focus on a specific memory while the specialist utilizes their chosen stimulation technique. However, regardless of the exact issues one chooses to engage with EMDR therapy for, many of the benefits are universally received.

What Are the Benefits of EMDR Therapy?

As with all types of therapies, EMDR therapy has both its benefits and limitations. However, it has been found that due to its non-invasiveness and relative safety, there tend to be more upsides than down when it comes to EMDR therapy.

The following are some (but certainly not all) of the benefits that can come from EMDR therapy:

  • Can help to access and resolve past traumas
  • It can help individuals who struggle with sleep issues that involve sleeplessness and nightmares
  • Helps with anxiety and depression that are often associated with underlying emotional issues
  • By “unsticking” traumatic memories it can help with attention span and focus
  • Reduces negative thinking and racing thoughts
  • Helps individuals find closure from past traumatic events
  • For those struggling with addiction, it can help to eliminate potential triggers that cause relapsing
  • Helps with communication skills
  • Can help with the holistic mind-body connection and can motivate individuals in both their physical and spiritual lives
  • For some individuals struggling with severe depression, it can reduce self-harm and suicidal ideations

What Are the Limitations of EMDR Therapy?

Now, as previously mentioned, there are some limitations to EMDR therapy as well. The following are just a few of those limitations:

  • Some people have reported vivid dreams related to the EMDR experiences
  • It may not work with individuals who do not have specific underlying issues (strictly genetic disorders, for example)
  • Some people have reported that they have experienced unexpected intrusive thoughts
  • There have been reports of minor headaches occurring directly after treatment
  • Some people have reported feeling “pins and needles” sensations throughout their bodies after an EMDR session (though the majority of these experiences were reported as temporary)
  • Instances of “flashbacks”
  • There is some resistance because it is still a relatively new procedure
  • Some clinicians are hesitant because there is no exact understanding of “why” it works
  • Individuals may simply be resistant to the treatment, and thus, they experience no benefits

The Benefits of Psychedelic and Ketamine Therapy and EMDR Therapy

As previously mentioned, a recovery plan should not have a foundation of one sole modality. This includes EMDR therapy. EMDR therapy should be utilized in tandem with many other types of treatments. In fact, when this is done, EMDR therapy tends to have greater effects. One of the therapies that can work well with EMDR therapy is ketamine therapy.

Ketamine therapy has garnered a lot of attention as of late. This is because more and more clinicians are utilizing it to treat individuals who are struggling with issues of mental health and addiction. Ketamine therapy has been shown to be highly effective in treating individuals struggling with PTSD.

According to the article, Ketamine as Treatment for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: A Review, “Some researchers suggest that the symptoms experienced in PTSD may be caused by a loss of synaptic connectivity. The stress experienced in PTSD may impair the functioning of synaptic connectivity, which is mostly mediated by glutamate. As glutamate synapses play a crucial role in these neuronal circuits, it is possible that the use of ketamine may enhance synaptic connectivity in these circuits, ultimately reversing the effects of stress.” For individuals struggling with trauma, EMDR and ketamine therapy may be the exact two-tiered approach that they need.

However, a recovery plan should not just focus on two types of recovery either. Again, it must be multi-faceted. This should also include the nutrient replenishment that individuals need when they first start to recover from issues of addiction and/or mental health. Nutrition therapy is an ideal way to make this replenishment happen.

The Benefits of Nutrition Therapy and EMDR Therapy

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we have a saying; “Food is medicine.” That is because the food we eat ultimately determines the way that we feel. Lack of nutrition is one of the reasons that we become so depleted when we are struggling with untreated addiction and mental illness.

Working with licensed dietitians and nutritionists can help replenish the vital vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that we need to heal at the cellular level. Ultimately, it is not going to matter which therapy one engages with; if they are not functioning on optimal nutritional levels, then the therapy is never going to work as well as it possibly could. 

According to the article, New Approaches to Nutritional Therapy, by Doctors Koithan and Devika, “Nutritional Therapy uses food to prevent and reverse diseases that plague most western societies: diabetes, obesity, heart disease, arthritis, and depression. In order for food to be therapeutic, it must be nutrient-dense, measured in part by the nutrients and anti-nutrients, contained in consumed foods.” At Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we have a focus on nutrition, as well as a focus on making nutrition enjoyable, as all of our food is prepared by world-class chefs. Also, some of our food is grown right on our 30-acre luxury property.

The Benefits of Horticulture Therapy and EMDR Therapy

One of the exciting and unique offerings that we have at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab is our horticulture therapy program. When one steps onto our property, they will see rows of citrus trees (including a fruit known as longan, which is unique to our Island and extremely high in antioxidants). They will also see freshly cultivated vegetable boxes, pineapple patches, and guava bushes. All of these flourishing plants have been worked on by our very own clients.

Horticulture therapy is about getting our hands in the dirt and reconnecting with nature and the way in which it feeds our body, mind, and spirit. However, horticulture therapy offers many more specific benefits than just that.

According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Horticulture has been long used as a therapeutic activity for people with mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and depression. People’s interactions with plants, through goal-orientated horticultural activities in the form of active gardening, as well as the passive appreciation of nature, could be therapeutic to people with mental disorders in many ways.” The journal then explains that horticulture therapy can have positive emotional benefits. It can reduce stress, help with cognitive ability, increase self-esteem, provide a sense of community, and help people feel a much-needed sense of accomplishment.

Horticulture therapy is also very well adapted for treating individuals struggling with trauma, which is why it can also be such a great supplement for a recovery plan that already includes EMDR therapy. This is also true with another form of therapy that is ideal for those recovering on the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island: surf therapy.

Surf Therapy and EMDR Therapy: Beneficial Together

The Big Island of Hawaii has some of the best surfing in the world. Also, a mere 15-minute walk from Exclusive Hawaii Rehab’s recovery center is a surf break known as Honoli’i that offers some world-class surfing and exceptional boogie boarding. This surfing offers physical activity, yes, but it also offers the chance to heal at the cellular level.

According to the clinical journal Frontiers in Psychology, “Surf therapy is defined by the International Surf Therapy Organisation as an intervention that combines surf instruction, surfing, and structured individual and/or group activities to promote physical, psychosocial, and psychological well-being. In addition to physical exercise, surf therapy interventions typically include individual mentoring, social skills development, psychoeducation, and group discussions focused on increasing resilience and personal growth… Surfing affords the opportunity to combine the psychological benefits of socializing, nature, and exercise by participating in water-based exercise.” There is no better place to surf than the place where it originated: The Islands of Hawaii.

Exclusive Hawaii Rehab: Healing on the Hamakua Coast

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we only believe in individualized and comprehensive addiction and mental health care. We believe that it is the only way to get to the root/core causes of our problems and ultimately heal at the cellular level.

Let us harken back to the term “HO‘OHANA,” which is putting value in everything that we do. That is our mission at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab: to value each of our clients and each of our clients’ recovery, which is why we embrace “HO‘OHANA” in all that we do here on the beautiful Hamakua Coast on Hawaii’s Big Island.

One of the specific treatments that we offer Exclusive Hawaii Rehab is EMDR therapy. There are many benefits of EMDR therapy, especially for individuals who are struggling with issues of trauma. Integrating EMDR therapy into a more comprehensive recovery plan that includes utilizing nutrition, vitamin rejuvenation, the natural offerings of the Hamakua Coast on Hawaii’s Big Island, and restorative exercise is an ideal way to recover. If you feel like you or a loved one may be struggling with issues of addiction, mental health, or both, we can help. For more information on how EMDR therapy can help heal at the cellular level, please reach out to Exclusive Hawaii Rehab today at (808) 775-0200.