EMDR for Addiction at Home? Program REVIEW

Can you get effective EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy from home? The Virtual EMDR Program may offer you just that! We experienced the service for ourselves and present you with our findings, here.

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EMDR Can Help us Cope with the Past

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR, is a therapy initially used as trauma and PTSD treatment for soldiers returning from battles and war conflicts. However, EMDR was also found useful in treating depression, fears and phobias, and addictions. Now, EMDR therapy is being used in many inpatient addiction rehabilitation centers as an adjunct addiction therapy to help resolve disturbing past events.

Recently, our paths crossed with the creators of Virtual EMDR  – a program that allows you to get EMDR treatment in the comfort of your own home. How does the program work? What is the success rate?

We tested it out first hand and we present to you our experiences in this review. At the end, we invite you to share your questions and feedback, and we’ll try to respond personally and promptly to all legitimate inquiries.

How does the Virtual EMDR program work?

This is an online EMDR therapy program designed for at-home use and does not require the assistance or involvement of a therapist. Your eye follows a moving dot on a screen that can vary in speed, size, and color.

What the program does is that it stimulates the left and right hemispheres of the brain over and over again. These repeated stimulations can cause your behavior to change as a result of changes in your brain – your mind no longer reacts abruptly to stimuli or triggers from the past:

  • specific locations
  • flashbacks
  • people
  • smells
  • sounds
  • traumatic memories
  • past events

…that would normally trigger you to extreme emotions of fear or anger. Instead, you can integrate the past in a way that is not so charged with distress.

In addition to the on-screen EMDR Session Tool technology, the Virtual EMDR program specific to addiction also features a step-by-step program that can help you to:

  1. Uncover what lead to the development of your addictive behaviors in the first place.
  2. Learn more about your triggers.
  3. Remove automatic negative thinking patterns that can cause you to have a slip or relapse

Q: What types of addiction can the program help?
A: The creators of Virtual EMDR say it is effective for alcohol and drug addiction, compulsive gambling, addictive overeating, sex and love addiction, porn addiction, addictive shopping, and online/internet addictions.

What does the EMDR for Addiction program look like?

We opened the Virtual EMDR page, logged in and started the program. As simple as 1, 2, 3… Here is what the steps that we went through during one EMDR treatment session looked like.

STEP #1: Setting treatment goals
The Virtual EMDR program starts just like any EMDR session for addiction. It instructs you on how to select a goal, create mental target images of it, and install the positive treatment goal. The program helps you choose your positive treatment goal through a set of questions and instructions on what you should choose and how to phrase it correctly.

With your positive treatment goal in mind, it’s time to use the EMDR Session Tool. The program offers access to 3 different EMDR Session Tools. It is recommended that you use the Session Tool for at least 2 minutes and up to 10 minutes per session.

Session Tool 1 – This is the original Session Tool and features a tapping sound and a moving object. You can access it through Desktop or Laptop and change all features to fit your preferences by clicking on the Settings button.

Session Tool 2 – This is the most advanced Session Tool. It can be accessed through Desktop or Laptop only. The Session Tool 2 allows you customize many features, including:

  • the speed with which the object moves
  • the size of the object
  • the ease of approach of the moving object
  • the shape (circle or rectangle)
  • the sound that is made when the object hits the left or right side of the screen (Sound 1 is a longer-lasting “beep”, Sound 2 is a shorter-lasting “beep”, and Sound 3 sounds like magic!)
  • the display (motion blur & texture settings)

Session Tool 3 – Should work on Tablet, iPad, Desktop or Laptop. We tried to access it through an iPad, a Desktop computer, and a Laptop and encountered a 403 error that says we don’t have permission to access this modality.

STEP #2: Desensitizing your triggers
During this step, the program will focus on identifying and understanding your addiction triggers.

With your triggers in mind, you can use the Session Tools described above to work on one trigger or a set of triggers per session. The Session Tools are also useful at moments when you experience a trigger, so you don’t have to always wait for your scheduled time of the day to mentally envision the things that trigger you to use or act out in your addiction.

While focusing on your addiction trigger(s), you use your eyes to track the moving shapes on the screen. At the same time you are listening to tones that alternate between the left and right earphones or headphones. Try to use the Session Tool until your desire to use or act out in your addiction drops to a 0,1 or 2 on a scale of 0-10. This means you are ready to move on to the next step.

STEP #3: Install your ideal emotional state
By installing your ideal emotional state, you can observe the way you react differently than usual to being triggered. The previous steps of setting positive goals and desensitizing triggers should replace the compulsive urge to act out in your addiction with a positive emotional response.

Virtual EMDR helps you identify and install your ideal emotional state by encouraging you to think of past times in your life where you felt good. The feelings you are seeking for are positive, powerful emotions that make you feel in control of your life. Then, while focusing on these feelings from a past memory, you can access a Session Tool once again. It is recommended that you use it until your brain accepts your ideal positive emotional state as real, believable, and attainable.

STEP #4: Ending of EMDR session
You may feel a vibrating sensation all over you body after you finish the 3 sessions. This is completely normal with EMDR treatment sessions and goes by in no time. We would describe this state as waking up from deep meditation where you need a minute to come fully back to the present moment and get acclimated to your surroundings. There is a present feeling of calm and relaxation, and everything may seem to be of heightened, brighter colors.

The Virtual EMDR program carefully describes this process and the things you should do after your session is over. Then, you are instructed to check your impulse rating and reassess the level of your addictive urge. You can write down your post-EMDR session thoughts and feelings, as they may be quality reference points for future sessions.

What’s the goal of EMDR?

The goal of this particular program – and we quote – is,

“to give still suffering addicts access to technology that will get them sober”.

Q: Would we recommend it?
A: Yes!

We had a positive experience using Virtual EMDR and can say that it did work to help achieve a state of positivity, relaxation, and calm. While the tech itself is relatively simple to create, the intent behind the program help you set your own goals and targets. We liked the customization aspects of the program, but the template/text could use more simple language to explain program instructions.

Another important note is that Virtual EMDR says that it may not work for everybody, but that nearly 90% of participants said that they felt the EMDR was effective. Most importantly, the program comes with a complete 30 day money back guarantee. If the program doesn’t work for you, you can cancel and get your money back. A money back guarantee is an excellent way for people to experience new modalities for themselves.

EMDR addiction therapy questions

Do you have anything you’d like to ask? Maybe you have a personal experience using EMDR therapy in your addiction treatment process? Feel free to post your questions and feedback in the comments section below. We try to provide personal and prompt responses to all legitimate inquiries. In case we don’t know the answer to your questions we will refer you to professionals who can help.

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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