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EMDR and Behavioral Addictions

Robert Miller, PhD, developed the Feeling State Theory of Behavioral and Substance Addictions and EMDR protocol for addressing and eliminating various compulsions and addictions (objects, behaviors, a person) that are linked with a positive or intensely desired feeling. Once the individual’s feeling is fixated with the behavior, whenever he/she seeks that feeling, the addictive behavior is repeated, even though it may be out of their consciousness.

The EMDR therapist trained in this protocol recognizes that the feeling is a natural healthy desire related to a specific need (safety, relational winning or sensation/alive related). The addiction is linked to that desire. This healthy need is addressed, and after the link to behavior is identified, it is broken through a specialized EMDR protocol. Once the link is broken, the individual can see the behavior as though looking at it through a set of new eyes, gaining the insight and ability to make healthier choices.

This approach works with behavioral addictions, such as pornography, sexual fetishes, co-dependence and relationship addictions (“Why do I go back to the same type of harmful person?), food addictions, gambling, video addiction, self-harm, overworking, need for approval and success, being good, and giving the shirt off your back etc. It also works for substance addictions such as nicotine, drugs and alcohol.


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