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Addiction, Drumming and Recovery: How the Beat Brings Healing

Addiction, Drumming and Recovery: How the Beat Brings Healing

Quitting drinking or using drugs is the obvious end goal of drug and alcohol treatment. However, recovery from addiction encompasses far more than simply abstaining from using. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says that recovery is a “process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”1 These are, after all, the things that lead to authentic happiness, and people who are authentically happy don’t typically feel a need to abuse drugs and alcohol.

The pathways that lead to the process of change are countless, and for some, there are many effective options. Since there is no single path to recovery, drug and alcohol treatment should include a variety of both traditional and complementary therapies. This combination allows clients to address a range of issues from many different angles to work through them and increase self-awareness.

Complementary therapies for addiction have been shown through research to be effective when they’re used along with traditional therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy. Art therapy and music therapy are particularly suited to drug and alcohol treatment programs, along with yoga, nature therapy and mindfulness meditation.

Drumming for Recovery

Drumming is a form of music therapy that’s been shown to reduce stress and promote relaxation, according to an article in the Journal of Addictions Nursing. Drumming and other forms of music therapy increase engagement in treatment and can help reduce anxiety, depression and anger.2

Author and drummer David Hickman facilitates drumming circles at Roots Through Recovery to help clients along in their healing process. Hickman, a pastor who’s in long-term recovery himself, describes a drumming circle as a safe place where individuals are free to express themselves through drums and other instruments, without judgment or expectations. “In this space,” Hickman says, “participants get in touch with the rhythm that starts with their heartbeat and grows from there, and transforms them into a place of well-being.”

“I have seen people get in touch with a range of emotions as they get out of their head and let their feelings free.” Hickman says participants may experience a decrease in anxiety, tears of joy and tears of sadness. People’s “body language changes as they let down their guard and begin to connect with themselves and others in the circle.”

Hickman began drumming four years ago and found it a powerful practice that took his own recovery to a whole new level. His experience was so profound that he knew he wanted to share it with others in recovery. “Once I made that decision, unseen doors began to open up and continue to do so,” he says.

Drug and Alcohol Treatment Gets Spiritual

Drum therapy promotes a sense of spiritual connection with others and reduces feelings of isolation, according to a report published in the American Journal of Public Health.3 Drumming is among a variety of experiential treatments for addiction that help clients work through obstacles, connect their thoughts to their behaviors and develop higher self-esteem and self-awareness. Drumming, according to the report, promotes the release of emotional trauma and connects drummers with a higher power.

Many of the participants in Hickman’s drumming circle report feeling a spiritual connection for the first time ever, or for the first time in a long time. “I have seen people get in touch with a range of emotions as they get out of their head and let their feelings free. People feel relief during drumming,” he says.

The Unique Benefits of Drumming

Every individual experiences unique benefits from the drumming circle, depending on their circumstances and needs. “A person may drum away stress, anxiety or pain,” says Hickman, while others find that drumming “releases rage and anger held in the body.”

Hickman says that drumming has been overlooked by the therapeutic community for drug and alcohol treatment, although that’s beginning to change. “Our ancestors have known its importance since earliest recorded history. We’re catching up to the wisdom of our ancestors.”

Roots Through Recovery will be celebrating their one-year anniversary on February 6, and Hickman will conduct a healing drumming circle as part of the festivities. The day’s events also include a guided meditation session led by Lauren Emmel, a somatic experiencing session led by Larry Kessler and a presentation on opioid addiction by Todd “Z-Man” Zalkins. Zalkins’ recently released film “The Long Way Back” covers his own journey through addiction and into recovery.

At Roots, we offer drug rehab in Long Beach as well as sober living options. Visit 3939 Atlantic Ave, Suite 102 Long Beach, CA 90807 or call (866) 766-8776 for immediate assistance.


Lean (Purple Drank) Drug Addiction and Treatment

Lean (Purple Drank) Drug Addiction and Treatment

This drug has not only given Houston a nasty monicker but has also sent Lil’ Wayne spiraling into a dangerous drug addiction he got hospitalized for in 2016.  So what exactly is Lean and why is it notorious not just in Houston, but all over America?  Let’s take a deeper look at this drug, its connection with the Hip-hop and pop culture, and why it’s dangerous.  

What is Lean?

Also called Purple Drank, Texas Tea, or Sizzurp, Lean is a lethal cocktail made of codeine-based cough syrup, soda and hard candy (preferably Jolly Ranchers).  Codeine is a poppy-derived narcotic pain reliever and cough suppressant. While it’s considered an opioid, it’s weaker than morphine. 

However, codeine is still highly addictive and long term use can cause damage to the body.  

Other variations use Dextromethorphan (DXM) instead of codeine, with the addition of alcohol.  

Where did it come from?  

Lean has been around for the past 5 decades.  Its earliest predecessor was a mixture of Robitussin and beer taken by blues musicians back in the 1960s in Houston.  Later, beer was replaced by wine coolers. It wasn’t until the 1980s when Codeine replaced Robitussin by Houston rappers as the principal ingredient of Lean.  

By early ‘90’s, Houston-based DJ Screw brought the concoction out of the Houston underground scene into a wider audience in Texas with Chopped and Screwed, a Hiphop music style which was said to be inspired by the effect of Lean.  it was said that drinking Lean enhanced the experience of listening to chopped and screwed music.       

It wasn’t until DJ Screw’s death in the year 2000 that Lean was majorly outlawed in Houston.    

By late ’90s and early 2000s, the popularity of Lean has spread nationwide thanks to the music of Three 6 Mafia and Lil’ Wayne.  Since then, a lot of celebrities have admitted to using and almost dying of lean drug abuse and misuse, including American rapper Future, Juice Wrld, and Justin Beiber.     

In a TMZ report in 2017, rapper Lil’ Wayne has suffered seizures that landed him in the hospital a couple of times due to the consumption of high volumes of codeine.  While he acknowledged difficulty to quit, saying going without it was like “death in your stomach”.

Despite the number of celebrities warning others about the dangerous effects of the codeine or DXM concoction, many still glamorize the drink and even named it the “Heroin of the Hiphop world”.  

Why is it popular?  

Lean is popular because of the high it gives to the person drinking.  

Codeine, one of lean’s main ingredients, works the same way as other opiates, by slowing down brain activity.  This then translates to a feeling of euphoria and extreme relaxation (pretty much like floating). After drinking, the effects start to kick in in about 30-45 minutes, depending on how much codeine the concoction contains, and lasts for 6 hours. 

Another reason for its popularity is the accessibility of its main ingredients.  Codeine, compared to other opiates, is easier to procure as it’s less regulated. But getting products containing codeine will still require a prescription to avoid misuse.  

No prescription?  No problem. Dextromethorphan (DXM) can be bought without prescription (although, in some states, you need to be 18 to buy medication that contains this ingredient). The effect of DXM, however, is much similar to that of ketamine, which is a hallucinogenic.    

The Effects of Lean and Why it’s Dangerous

Undesirable Short Term Effects

Apart from the euphoria and the ethereal calm it gives you, drinking lean can also cause these other side effects:  

  • Dizziness, nausea, and vomiting
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Respiratory depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Constipation
  • Loss of coordination
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness

Long term Effects


Long term use of codeine can also have fatal consequences. With increased intake, the body could develop tolerance, which could lead to dependence, and later on, addiction. 

Liver Damage

In addition, it can also cause liver damage.  Acetaminophen is commonly found in cough medication that is used in making lean.  And we’re talking about high levels of cough medication. High amounts of Acetaminophen can overwork your liver, thus preventing it to properly metabolize the chemicals.     

Cognitive impairment

Prolonged use of codeine can also lead to brain lesions that could cause cognitive impairment, memory loss, and changes in behavior.  It can also lead to psychosis.    

Introduction to other Opioids

Codeine is a gateway drug, which could lead to the use of more potent opioids, such as morphine, heroin, and fentanyl.  

Mixing with Alcohol and other Substances

In extreme cases, lean is often mixed with alcohol to enhance its effect, or to shorten the onset time.  

While this combination can get you higher, it’s not always a good idea.  Mixing alcohol with codeine or DXM can, at the very least, cause trouble breathing, sleepiness, delayed reaction time and brain fog. At worse, it can cause respiratory depression, which could lead to a coma or death due to the lack of oxygen in the brain.  

If you are taking other prescription medication, or other illicit drugs, this can have a harmful interaction with codeine or DXM.  For instance, it can intensify the sedating effects of antidepressants.  

DXM and Robotripping

Some lean drinkers replace codeine with DXM as they’re easier to procure.  DXM can be found in cough medications such as NyQuil and Robitussin, which can be purchased over the counter.  The use of DXM instead of codeine is called Robotripping, and its effect is much similar to ketamine than codeine.  It causes hallucinations and the sensation of flying.  

Robotripping is just as dangerous as drinking lean with codeine.  Overdosing on DXM can cause:  

  • Seizures
  • Blue lips and fingernails
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Coma


It’s easy to underestimate the power of lean and its potential to cause drug addiction.  For starters, codeine is considered a weaker opioid. Long term use, however, can be fatal.  It has, as a matter of fact, led to the deaths of many prominent figures such as A$AP Yam and DJ Screw.  

If you or someone you know is suffering from Lean addiction, know that it is never too late. Seeking professional help is the best option. Addiction to opioid will require medically-assisted detoxification as the withdrawal symptoms can be very painful and in some instances, deadly.  Call Roots Through Recovery via (866) 766-8776 to schedule a FREE consultation with our team or visit us at 3939 Atlantic Ave, Suite 102 Long Beach, CA 90807. 

The Price of Drug Addiction

The Price of Drug Addiction

Drug addiction does not only affect the person suffering from it.  It causes a nasty ripple effect that touches everyone around that person.  Partners become alienated, kids suddenly need to assume responsibilities they’re not ready for, and employers lose money because of the sufferer’s productivity and attendance issues.  

The sufferer, however, does not see the impact of his addiction as his main focus is on acquiring and consuming drugs.  Hopefully, this will offer a bit of perspective on the effects of drug addiction on an economic and personal scale.  

Average Costs of Drugs in the US

As of 2007, the estimated overall annual cost of illicit drugs in the US is around USD 193 Billion according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, with around USD 55.7 Billion of this attributed to the misuse of prescription opioids.   

It is, however, difficult to determine the average cost of drug addiction per person as factors such as location, accessibility, and insurances can affect the price of the drug.  But just to give you a rough estimate on the cost of some of the popular drugs used in the US:  

  • Marijuana – Depending on where you’re located and the quality of the marijuana you’re purchasing, it can be as cheap as $138.22 per ounce (if you’re purchasing low-grade weed in Arkansas), or almost $600 per ounce on high-quality weed if you’re in D.C. The cost doesn’t include the paraphernalia used to smoke marijuana, such as the pipe and the paper you roll it with.  
  • Prescription opioids – Opioid is the umbrella term for a wide variety of painkillers which are either derived from the poppy plant or synthetically produced.  Prices for each type vary depending on how addictive and how strong its effect is. Usually, the less addictive opioids are more expensive.
  • Where you buy it also matters.  Vicodin, for instance, can be bought $1.26 per pill with prescription and insurance.  On the street, the price is jacked up 4 fold at $5 per pill.  And as you need to take more than 1 pill to get the effect, you need to buy more, thus increasing the cost exponentially.
  • Heroin – Heroin is the answer to expensive regulated opioids, with the average retail cost of 1 gram at $307 as of 2017 according to the data by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).  Following this model, if you’re consuming around 10 baggies per day, you spend about $153.50 daily or around $4298 per month.
  • Cocaine – The average retail cost per gram of cocaine as of 2017 is around $96 according to UNODC.  Depending on the usage, daily consumption of cocaine could go around almost $500.

More Than Just Finances

The price of drug addiction extends beyond the financial drain it can cost you and your family.  It can also put you, your family and your community in jeopardy as well.  

But before we talk about the effects of drug addiction to you and the people around you, let’s talk about how drugs work.  

As our brains are wired to repeat experiences we find pleasurable, we are motivated to do them again and again.  Drugs take advantage of this by flooding our brains with dopamine, thus triggering an intense feeling of pleasure.  As a result, we keep taking the drug.

Over time, we start developing a tolerance for the dopamine that we require an extra amount to get the same feeling again.  Eventually, the other things we find pleasurable (spending time with family, sports, and food) no longer give us the same joy as drugs do.  

And this is where things get ugly.  

Health Problems

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, drug overdose has claimed more than 70,000 lives already in 2017.  That means there are more deaths related to drug abuse than any other preventable health conditions or injuries.  

As drugs are chemicals, prolonged use can lead to health and mental problems.  Depending on the type of drug you are addicted to, you could suffer from one or more health problems as a result.  To name a few, drug addiction can lead to a weakened immune system, thereby making you more susceptible to other diseases.  

Prolonged and heavy use of drugs can also lead to irreversible brain damage.     

In addition to the established ill effects on one’s health, drugs can also make you vulnerable to infectious diseases through the sharing of needles and unprotected sex while high on drugs.  

Effect on Relationships

Drug addiction is not just a condition of one person.  Its effect impacts the people around the user as well. Hence, it’s also considered a family disease.    

Partners of users become susceptible to violence and abuse, especially when they’re living in one roof.  Additionally, they become codependent as well, thus trapping both of them in a toxic relationship.  

Children, too, bear the brunt of a parent’s addiction.  They start assuming responsibilities they are not ready for because their parent can’t function.  The neglect and abuse they experience in the hands of an addicted parent will have a negative impact on their adulthood.  

Often, children whose parent or parents suffer from drug addiction are more likely to become addicts themselves.  Otherwise, they will have a higher tendency to have anxiety and trust issues as adults.  

It’s a Social Problem Too!

Drug users are more likely to commit crimes than non-users.  Aside from the fact that possession of drugs per se is illegal, being under the influence can encourage the user to commit crimes, from theft to fund the addiction to something as heinous as murder.

As drugs alter brain activity, users have lower inhibitions and are therefore more inclined to commit crimes with no remorse.   

Rehabilitation:  Why it’s worth the cost

If you or a loved one is suffering from drug addiction, seek help immediately.  Upfront, drug rehabilitation and treatment costs may be steep. But in the long run, it is cheaper considering its benefits.  For starters, it not only reduces the cost of drug use. It also lowers the associated health and social costs.  

If you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction in Long Beach, don’t hesitate to seek help. Rehab and detox facilities like Roots Through Recovery have programs that can help you combat addiction as well as any co-occurring conditions. Roots Through Recovery facility in Long Beach is easily accessible via South Bay, Catalina Island, and Orange County. Visit 3939 Atlantic Ave, Suite 102 Long Beach, CA 90807 or call (866) 766-8776.

Mindfulness Meditation: How It Helps with Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

Mindfulness Meditation: How It Helps with Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

Mindfulness is a meditative practice, a moment-by-moment awareness of what’s happening in our environment and within us in the present moment. By focusing wholly on the present, we avoid obsessing on events in the past or stressing about what might happen in the future.

We all have the ability to be mindful. It doesn’t take great skill or a lot of schooling to master. You can do it anywhere, anytime; at work, at home, or while walking down the street. It does not ask us to change who we are.

Anybody can do it, and there are vast bodies of evidence that suggest that it can help us overcome a lot of issues.

Wherever you go, there you are

Addiction, anxiety, and mental health conditions are things that typically take us away from the present moment. When we are in the throes of one of these disorders, we are consumed with trying to escape the present because it represents discomfort, agitation, and pain.

Paradoxically, by focusing only on the present—on the things you feel within your body and what’s going on around you—it is possible to change how you respond to the discomfort of addiction and mental health issues. Learning how to deal with these feelings can encourage a different way of behaving, too. For example, it may prevent you from reacting impulsively to a stressful situation, helping you trade neutral, non-judgmental thoughts for those that trigger addictive behavior.

This principle is the core of mindfulness.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is an ancient meditation technique that goes back thousands of years. Though it is practiced in many cultures and religions, the type of mindfulness used in addiction and mental health treatment is most closely related to Buddhist practice. In this culture, it is described as “paying attention purposefully, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

In terms of addiction and mental health, the non-judgmental aspect is key as much of the angst we feel is a direct result of a judgment we have made. Thoughts and sensations themselves do not have judgment attached to them. It’s how you decide to respond to those thoughts that create the judgmental aspect.

If you do not respond to those thoughts, if you choose instead just to notice the sensations without any further acknowledgment, you do not pass judgment. Without judgment, there is no need for anxiety, self-deprecating, or harmful thoughts.

What is mindfulness meditation?

Meditation is used by people from cultures all over the world to bring a sense of peace and calm and to improve various aspects of their lives.

There are meditative aspects in many of the things we do every day, from doing the dishes to enjoying your favorite music. In fact, you may already be practicing mindfulness meditation on some level, even if you don’t realize it.

There are many different types of meditation, but mindfulness meditation places a particular focus on the awareness of oneself and the immediate surroundings.

All types of meditation have a few things in common. In any case, the way you approach it is much the same:

  • Find a quiet, calm environment where you are unlikely to be disturbed
  • Settle yourself in a comfortable position, usually seated
  • Relax your body and mind and release stressful thoughts
  • Use deep breaths to oxygenate your blood

In mindfulness meditation, you are also asked to be fully present and aware of yourself and your surroundings.

You will notice your thoughts, your breath, the temperature of the cool air as it enters your nostrils and the warmth of it as you exhale.

Open your mind to accept thoughts as they come to you.

As thoughts enter your mind, as you feel the sensations on your skin and within your body, you will observe them without judging them. You will accept these thoughts, choosing not to linger on them. Your thoughts are neither good nor bad, right or wrong. They simply are.

During this meditation, you will take inventory of each part of your body and notice how it feels, the sensations as the air passes over it, the pressure of the chair beneath you. You will notice the smells and sounds of what is going on around you and, in many cases, the anxiety and worry that you typically experience will ease.

This is the essence of mindfulness.

Our mind, when left to its own devices, will instantly judge a person or situation as good or bad, fair or unfair, important or unimportant. In many cases, this happens so quickly that our responses are reactive and can sometimes lead us down a dark path.

When we practice mindfulness, we do not allow judgment. We can gain perspective on our thoughts and find the freedom to choose how we proceed.

If the concept of mindfulness meditation is new to you, it might be helpful to start with a guided meditation, like this one:

Mindfulness meditation for mental health conditions and addiction

There is much evidence that mindful meditation can help a range of mental health conditions, including:

  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Mood disorders
  • Insomnia

Though mindfulness may not replace frontline therapies for some of these conditions, it can significantly improve clinical outcomes, reduce symptoms, and help to establish coping behaviors that allow other treatments such as mental health treatment, etc… to work more effectively.

One of the other benefits of mindful meditation is that it doesn’t interfere with other treatments and can actually enhance long-term results. It can be practiced at home, at work, or with your therapist. Once you have learned the techniques, you will be able to apply it to any situation, anytime you need it.

Mindfulness for substance abuse and addiction

In recent years, mindfulness training has been studied extensively as an intervention for addictions and addictive behaviors that include smoking, drinking, and various forms of substance abuse.

The outcomes of these studies show that mindful-based interventions (MBIs) can reduce cravings and substance misuse. Better still, approaches like Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention can also work to prevent relapse in the future. Mindfulness staves off destructive thoughts that have the potential to derail your sobriety.

By focusing on the present moment rather than allowing your mind to obsess over a craving, you will effectively, and immediately deflect your response. Continue to practice, and this could be a sustainable method of achieving your recovery goals.

Getting started with mindful meditation

When learning mindful meditation, you may work with a therapist who can guide you through the process. Whether you pick it up quickly or if it takes some time to feel a level of comfort with the process, the results are immediately noticeable. With patience, perseverance, and commitment, the rewards will come. As you become more comfortable with mindfulness, you can incorporate them into everyday life to reduce stress and help you cope with “slippery” situations.

You can begin practicing mindfulness right away simply by taking notice of where you are, what you are doing, and what’s going on around you. The key is to accept these things without judgment and without becoming overwhelmed. If you need a guide, you can find great guided meditations like the YouTube video above, and there are also great apps and podcasts available.

There’s no need to buy anything, and you don’t need a doctor to show you how. Keep in mind that your mind will wander and attempt to hijack your serenity with judgmental thoughts. When these thoughts arise, just go back to your breath; breathe in, breathe out. Just breathe.

If you would like to learn more about mindfulness for addiction and mental health, we would love to help. Reach out today to get started. Roots Through Recovery offers mental health treatments in South Bay. Roots Through Recovery also have programs that can help you combat addiction as well as any co-occurring conditions. Roots Through Recovery facility in Long Beach is easily accessible via South Bay, Catalina Island, and Orange County. Visit 3939 Atlantic Ave, Suite 102 Long Beach, CA 90807 or call (866) 766-8776 for immediate assistance.

Music Therapy: The Rhythm of Healing

Music Therapy: The Rhythm of Healing

The idea of music as a healing force is not new. The ancient Greeks put Apollo, one of their gods, in charge of both music and healing, suggesting that there has long been an understood connection between the two. There are many theories as to why music therapy works. Some studies support the idea that music helps the brain make new connections between nerve cells, and helps organize the firing of nerve cells in the part of the brain responsible for higher functions. Others look at the rhythms of music and feel that we respond to rhythmic repetition, much like our heart, breathing, and brain waves.

What can music therapy do?

The healing power of music is well-documented. It has been proven to reduce anxiety and depression, and also to lessen the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, autism, schizophrenia, and many other psychological disorders.

Additionally, music therapy has been found to improve motor function, communication skills, emotional stability, and the ability to focus. It is considered to be an evidence-based therapeutic approach to mental health treatment, and there are plenty of mainstream studies to back it up.

For example, according to the American Psychological Institute, music therapy should not be thought of as an “alternative therapy” due to the weight of clinical studies that can back the results. These studies prove that music therapy can help patients in the areas of physical health, emotional health, mental health, and also in a social manner.

How music therapy is applied

Depending on the diagnosis and the approach decided on by your therapist, music therapy might involve singing along to music or simply meditating and relaxing as you listen. Various exercises or movements might be performed with music as the catalyst, supporting outcomes that range from improving self-image to improving memory and physical coordination.

Addiction, Drumming and Recovery: How the Beat Brings Healing

At Roots, music therapy not just something we offer, it is woven into the fiber of our program, with several groups a week tapping into the power of music and healing. David Hickman, a UCLA-trained Music Medicine Facilitator, provides a Drumming for Healing group, in which clients are able to use Native American and African drumming rhythms to communicate internal feelings, and support for the peer group. This extremely powerful group has become one of the cornerstones of our program.

Rock to Recovery, founded by veteran guitarist, Wes Geer, employs song writing, and performing and recording as a “band”, to focus on creating a sense of belonging and increasing self-esteem. “…It was when I was in treatment that I realized how much music could help [me] get through those tough emotions that run so rampant, especially in the early days. Being totally sober and dealing with the bottom I had hit, strumming the guitar was the only thing that would bring me peace,” says Geer. The group of professional musicians, who are also in recovery, brings fun into treatment and recovery by offering a natural escape from the fear-based mind.

Music therapy for pain

Music therapy has also proven helpful in managing pain. In one study, cancer patients were split into two groups; one group received talk therapy while the other received music therapy. In the talk therapy group, there was no noticeable reduction in pain, while the music therapy group showed a “statistically significant reduction” in pain scores.

The findings supported the theory that music therapy is a safe and nonpharmacological alternative to pain reduction, even in cases of severe and chronic pain.

Music therapy for depression and anxiety

According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy can help patients with a wide range of psychosocial needs. In cases where patients are resistant to other treatments, it has enabled them to develop relationships, communicate emotions, and express ideas that they may not be able to address with words alone.

The stimulation that music provides tends to provoke responses that stem from familiarity, comfort, and feelings of security associated with the music itself.

Drum circle set up for the Drumming for Healing group with David Hickman.

Other mental health outcomes that have been observed through music therapy include:

  • Improved personal relationships
  • Decrease in anxiety/phobias
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Increase in verbalization
  • Better motivation
  • Safe emotional release
  • Reduction in muscle tension

In conclusion, music therapy can be highly beneficial in addressing a range of disorders. It is a safe and evidence-based practice that is effective when integrated into a multidisciplinary approach and supporting other modes of healing therapy like yoga, nutrition, and art therapy.

If you would like to learn more about whether music therapy might be right for you, reach out today to get started. Visit Roots Through Recovery at 3939 Atlantic Ave, Suite 102 Long Beach, CA 90807 or call (866) 766-8776 for immediate assistance.

EMDR: More Than Just Waving a Finger

EMDR: More Than Just Waving a Finger

EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a specialized form of integrated therapy. Over the past three decades, it has proven to be highly effective in treating PTSD and trauma disorders as well as many other types of mental health issues.

In some cases, it is used as an adjunct therapy when treating eating disorders, panic attacks, addiction, phobias, sexual dysfunction, anxiety-related issues, and psychological trauma resulting from cancer treatment.

What EMDR is like

The treatment itself is quite involved and will generally take several appointments to complete, months if done correctly. Considered an alternative therapy, it relies on your own eye movements to lessen the emotional impact of traumatic or stressful events.

As you will see from the outline of the phases of EMDR below, the first three phases are done to help you prepare for the actual therapy. A trained, or certified EMDR therapist educated in the best practices of the therapy will spend the majority of the time working with you in these three phases: Planning, Preparation and Assessment.

It is important to keep in mind that EMDR requires that you are properly “resourced”, meaning that you have the supports in place, prior to actually starting the therapy. Resourcing includes finding a support group that you feel a part of, family or loved ones who are supportive of your treatment, a hobby or passion that you enjoy, and anything else that helps you in a positive way. Only once these are in place, will your therapist begin the reprocessing.

During a session, which usually lasts about an hour and a half, your therapist will have you recall the stressful event. You will be asked to include in those memories all the physical and emotional sensations you can remember while they move their finger back and forth before your eyes. Alternative ways to create bilateral stimulation are with handheld buzzers or headphones with alternating sounds.

As the session goes on, they will gradually guide your thoughts to more pleasant memories. At the beginning and at the end of the session, you will be asked to rate your level of distress.

What is EMDR and How Does it Work?

The proof

As it is a relatively recent approach (the initial study was first published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress in 1989), it is still gaining momentum. However, there have been many positive results in treating veterans with PTSD.

Some research shows that EMDR is helpful for 77 percent of patients accessing the treatment for PTSD. It has a lower dropout rate than other exposure therapies, and is largely more effective in addressing symptoms.

In terms of supporting research for EMDR, a few things can be concluded:

  • It works better than doing nothing.
  • In many cases, it is more effective than supportive listening.
  • It does not outperform CBT on its own.
  • Other exposure-based treatments have seen similar results.

It is important that EMDR be integrated into a treatment program that addresses all aspects of your unique situation, as it will be much more effective than EMDR therapy on its own.

The EMDR treatment plan

EMDR therapy consists of eight separate phases, usually spread out over 12 therapy sessions, though, as we mentioned above, the first few phases may take longer depending on your unique circumstances.

Phase one: Planning

In the first phase, your therapist will go over your history. You will be asked to talk about the trauma and any traumatic memories that trigger your responses.

Phase two: Preparation

You will then learn stress management techniques, such as mindfulness and deep breathing. These methods will help you cope with traumatic memories when they come up.

Phase three: Assessment

In the third phase, you will be asked to identify specific memories and physical components of those memories that will later be used in the EMDR treatment.

Phase four – seven: Therapy

In phases four through seven, your therapist will begin using EMDR to target the memories you have identified. You will be asked to perform rapid eye movements, either following their finger or triggered by finger taps, music, or other gestures.

The therapist will ask you to recall the trauma and the feelings you have around these events. If you feel overwhelmed or if the memories cause you too much distress, your therapist will bring you back to the present before starting again.

Phase eight: Evaluation

Following each session and at the end of the cycle, you will be asked to assess your progress. Your therapist will also provide their own assessment.

If you struggle with PTSD or trauma, we can help. Reach out today to find out how to get started. Call Roots Through Recovery via (866) 766-8776 to schedule a FREE consultation with our team or visit us at 3939 Atlantic Ave, Suite 102 Long Beach, CA 90807.