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Medically Reviewed

Medically reviewed by Erika Dalton, LMSW

Written by Tampa Bay Recovery staff
Updated on August 13, 2023


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EMDR therapy is a type of treatment that has a documented history of helping people who have been struggling with addiction, trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health concerns.

In the absence of effective treatment, trauma can have a devastating impact on virtually all parts of a person’s life.

At Tampa Bay Recovery Center, we provide EMDR in Tampa for addiction that can help you overcome the effects of distressing memories and other mental health challenges, so you can live a happier life without the trauma affecting you as it once did.

What is EMDR Therapy?

The full name of EMDR therapy is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy. As this name suggests, this type of treatment uses eye movements to help patients develop healthier ways of processing painful experiences. The principles of EMDR therapy were established by Dr. Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s. Dr. Shapiro originally called this new form of treatment eye movement desensitization, or EMD. In the early 1990s, she changed the name to EMDR to more accurately describe the cognitive changes that patients experience when they are treated with this type of therapy. Though EMDR was originally developed to treat people who had PTSD, this technique has also proved effective at helping people who struggle with a variety of other mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and substance use disorders (which is the clinical term for addiction).


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How Does EMDR Therapy in Tampa Work?

EMDR for addiction consist of eight phases:

  1. History and treatment planning: Meeting with the EMDR therapist to discuss your past and identify your treatment goals.
  2. Preparation: Learning the procedures and techniques that are used during EMDR therapy sessions.
  3. Assessment: Determining the emotional and cognitive impact of traumatic memories.
  4. Desensitization: Moving your eyes rapidly while focusing on a specific distressing memory.
  5. Installation: Replacing negative responses to traumatic memories with healthier thought patterns.
  6. Body scan: Noting your physical response while recalling distressing moments from your past.
  7. Closure: Ending the session by returning to a relaxed state of mind.
  8. Reevaluation: Discussing the previous session at the start of a new session.

You can expect to progress through the eight phases of EMDR therapy during multiple sessions.

What is EMDR Therapy Like?

As noted above, EMDR therapy begins with a conversation to determine how you’ve been affected by traumatic memories. Identifying your needs and treatment goals is an essential component of EMDR therapy.

During the desensitization phase of EMDR therapy, your therapist will ask you to focus your mind on one specific painful memory. As you are doing this, you will be asked to rapidly move your eyes back and forth. You may follow the therapist’s fingers as they move to the left and to the right, or your therapist may use lights to prompt your eye movement. This activity is known as bilateral stimulation.

The eye movement that occurs during bilateral stimulation is similar to what happens during REM sleep, which is the stage of sleep when dreaming typically occurs. Experts believe that this movement may prompt neurobiological responses that allow people to more effectively process distressing thoughts and memories.

After each bilateral stimulation session, you will talk about how you feel when you think about the distressing memory. After multiple sessions, you will replace negative feelings with a healthier perspective.

How Can EMDR Help Treat Addiction?

In the decades since EMDR therapy was originally developed, research has identified it as a beneficial technique for people who have been living with a variety of mental health disorders and trauma, including addiction.

By treating underlying trauma, the person suffering from substance use disorder has less compulsion towards substances. Therapists trained in EMDR are taught to approach someone’s addiction from a trauma-informed way, allowing them to take a deeper look at the underlying traumatic incidents that may have contributed to addiction.

In addition, the primary benefit of EMDR therapy is that it empowers people to replace negative emotions and self-defeating beliefs with healthier and more productive ways of thinking. Patients who receive effective EMDR therapy report experiencing significantly less distress when recalling memories that were previously the source of considerable emotional pain.

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Tampa Bay Recovery Center is a premier leader in the provision of addiction treatment services. If you or someone you love is in need of professional care to address a substance use disorder, reach out to us right now at (813) 733-8774 to speak with an admissions specialist who can get you started on the road to recovery.

How Long Does Our EMDR Therapy in Tampa Last?

Each EMDR therapy session typically lasts 60-90 minutes. The exact amount of time that you may spend in an EMDR therapy session in Tampa can vary according to your specific needs.

Patients who receive EMDR therapy or elsewhere usually participate in multiple sessions. While trauma affects people differently, the American Psychological Association (APA) reports that most EMDR patients participate in two sessions per week for three to six weeks, for a total of six to 12 total EMDR sessions.

As is also the case with session length, the number of EMDR therapy sessions that you attend will be determined by personal factors such as your needs, progress, and treatment goals.

Treatment Programs That Offer EMDR Therapy

While not all of our levels of care offer EMDR Therapy, we want to ensure an individual is medically and mentally stable before beginning EMDR. During this time, uncomfortable feelings and traumatic memories can rise to the surface doing this kind of therapy. It’s important that an individual is in a safe and structured environment. The levels of care we offer EMDR are as follows:

  1. Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) – Our PHP Program is a day treatment program where individuals can live from home or a sober living environment.
  2. Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) – Our IOP program is a step-down level of care from our PHP program. IOP is three hours per day and provides group therapy, experiential therapy, and more. 
  3. Outpatient Programming – Our outpatient programming takes place one time per week and is the lowest level of care we offer.

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Find EMDR Therapy in Tampa Bay Today!

Don’t let the devastation of untreated trauma rob you of one more day. EMDR therapy at Tampa Bay Recovery Center can put you on the path toward a healthier and more hopeful future. Learn more about our admissions process and how EMDR therapy and other forms of treatment can help you live the full and satisfying life that you deserve.

Our Philosophy

We believe that getting help for substance use disorders is about much more than just trying to get through another day of not drinking or using drugs. Our mission is to help people reclaim their lives by teaching them how to effectively deal with the stress, trauma, and anxiety that contribute to their addictions. 

Meet Our Team

Our staff has over 60 years of combined experience in treating behavioral health disorders. Our compassionate and empathetic approach has helped hundreds.