At Safe Landing, we know from experience: Addiction and trauma go hand in hand. In fact, we rely on a trauma-informed care model, which assumes that everyone we come into contact with has had some sort of traumatic event happen in their life.
It’s important to note that trauma may not have been a specific event. It can be any event, situation or relationship that causes pain and distress — including a dysfunctional family dynamic or relationship that builds over time. This pain and distress can fuel addiction and result in teen substance abuse.
It’s not unusual for teens with a history of trauma to hold negative beliefs about themselves — including shame, guilt, resentment. They often manifest physical symptoms as well, such as increased anxiety, depression, emotional patterns like unstable relationships. We begin by identifying those symptoms, then use trauma therapy and EMDR to help reprocess those situations.
When there’s a traumatic event, situation or relationship — whether it’s physical abuse, sexual abuse, a natural disaster or an dysfunctional family relationship — the human body releases an influx of stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. They flood the brain, effectively shutting off the parts of the brain that are responsible for reprocessing the traumatic events.
Because that part of the brain is shut off due to the trauma chemicals, it also prevents the brain from processing the event appropriately. The result is a “fight-or-flight” response to the trauma — including anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and some forms of depression.
When we sleep, our bodies undergo a variety of phases, including REM sleep — rapid eye movement — which occurs during active dreaming. During REM sleep, your eyes dart back and forth, which in turn triggers the part of your brain responsible for reprocessing the memories of that day.
“EMDR” stands for eye movement desensitization reprocessing. The goal of EMDR is to use a similar set of eye movements to stimulate the part of the brain that can help to reprocess these memories appropriately.
If your teen is engaging in EMDR as part of their alcohol or drug rehab, it will likely require multiple therapy sessions. Not surprisingly, EMDR can be an intense therapy and is emotionally charged because we’re dealing with difficult topics.
However, by reprocessing these events and emotions, it’s possible to experience a profound sense of relief — both physically and psychologically. In fact, anyone who is struggling with trauma and substance abuse can benefit greatly from EMDR and trauma therapy.