EMDR has been widely used in the psychotherapy field for healing trauma.  I have used it for this with people with sex addictions and its been very effective at ending the addiction when the addiction has been driven by childhood trauma, especially childhood sexual abuse.  Now there is a new EMDR tool developed by Robert Miller, PhD (San Diego) called the Feeling State Addiction Protocol (FSAP) that works directly on the addiction.  This method works by taking out the feeling or emotion that is driving the addiction.  The theory in this is that an emotion has become connected with the behavior and it is the emotion that is driving the addictive behavior.  For example, if someone has had a very powerful – exciting feeling while having sex with a prostitute, this feeling could get stuck in the person because it is so intense.  And then this intense positive emotion could get triggered by anything sexual and motivate the person to repeat the behavior.  The problem is similar with trauma, but with a negative emotion – a very powerful negative emotion gets stuck in someone because of a traumatic event and that negative emotion is what keeps causing the problems for the person – the nightmares, or the high anxiety or disruptive negative symptoms.  Because the emotion is so intense sometimes a person’s psychological and emotional mechanisms cannot process it and so its get stuck inside, and this is what traditional EMDR processes out of one’s system.  The Feeling State Addiction Protocol works to process the intense positive emotion out of a person’s system.  It usually takes several months and a number of sessions to do this but this is usually much faster than any other method for ending the addiction.  In each session the intensity of the emotion driving the behavior usually goes down a notch.  Often when the emotion has been processed out, there is a negative belief underlying the whole thing which made the person vulnerable to the emotional high forming in the first place.  For example, for a person who had a very high and positive experience with a prostitute, they may have been vulnerable to this happening because they had an unconsious negative belief that said “I’m unattractive”, or a deeper negative belief of “I’m un-loveable”.  In this kind of work, once the emotion is processed out, then the negative belief is worked on and transformed so the person is not vulnerable to the same thing forming again.  More can be read about this method at http://www.psychinnovations.com/EMDRSD/Miller_Feeling_State_Addiction.pdf

In my use of this method with clients I have found that it doesn’t for everyone, but usually it does work.  People can usually tell within several sessions if it is going to work because they can feel the drive of the addiction lessening – once I see this, I know we’re on the right track.

Mark Robinett, MFT 415-221-3182  mrobi@sonic.net