Stephen Dansiger

psyd mft


Punk drummer then Songwriter then Dharma Practitioner then Social Justice Educator then EMDR/Trauma/Addiction Therapist then Author/Podcaster now simultaneously...

My Presentation at the EMDRIA Conference and.... Addiction

As part of my preparation to speak at this year's 2016 EMDRIA Conference in Minneapolis, I have been journaling my thoughts on the different aspects and hopeful impact of my presentation. For more information on the conference, click here. For additional journal entries, click here.

My Presentation at the EMDRIA Conference and.... Addiction

We live in difficult but exciting times – as the role of trauma in many different disorders and dilemmas has become apparent, we have the unique opportunity to focus our attention on trauma and trauma recovery being at the center of the healing path. This is particularly true for the millennia old dilemma of how to best treat addictions.

Many over the years have pointed to the importance of trauma recovery and trauma resolution in the process of addiction recovery.  Even those that believe that trauma recovery is crucial have wildly varying opinions as to how and when that should happen. That conversation is starting to skew toward trauma being an integral aspect of the addiction experience, and recovery from traumatic experiences and their consequences being a game changer in addictions recovery.

Having sat with a great number of addicts over the last couple of decades, I have noticed that a vast majority of recovering addicts have some kind of childhood trauma history. There are those that know they have had difficult pasts, and others who describe terrible things but swear that they are not affected by them. For those addicts who did not have trauma in their early years, almost certainly they took actions in their active addiction that were often traumatic in nature.

This being the case, it would seem that discovering a method or methods through which we could successfully stabilize the recovering addict, and then reprocess their traumatic memories, would be the most potent path to recovery. For the last 27 years I have been practicing Buddhist mindfulness meditation, including living at a monastery for a year. When I became a therapist, mindfulness of course informed my theoretical orientation and my methods. I have found nothing more powerful than Buddhist psychology and Buddhist practice as a means to greater understanding and to healing. That is why I helped Noah Levine develop the Los Angeles based treatment program based on his book Refuge Recovery, and he in turn trusted me to move forward with EMDR as a guiding orientation for our therapeutic work, so that we might effectively reprocess trauma using this highly researched therapy.

If the goal is to be able to reprocess traumatic memories in order to prevent relapse rather than to contribute to it once again, it is important that we be extremely mindful of the stabilization phase of recovery. My stabilization strategy is grounded in Buddhist mindfulness, and this and other addiction recovery methodologies all fall within the scope of the first two phases of EMDR therapy. Many people think of EMDR as "Follow my fingers" (or lights or tones), but in fact there is much to be done before reprocessing memories. From stabilization and resourcing we can then move toward reprocessing these troubling memories in order to support long term addiction recovery.

This is all deeply grounded in EMDR therapy, including the Adaptive Information Processing Model upon which it is based. We may be on the verge of a much more effective approach to treating addiction, by changing the short and long term goals of treatment, and by leaning into the trauma recovery aspect of the addictive cycle.

My next post will address the implications of this theory and practice for addiction treatment centers...