Addiction treatment at Decision Point Center is now being augmented by EMDR, and not just to address trauma! The Feeling State Addiction Protocol (FSAP) is being used to “delink” the pleasurable feeling state produced by using drugs and alcohol from the compulsive and self-destructive behavior of addiction. This expanded application of EMDR from trauma into other areas is a logical one given the increasing amount of brain research being done in the mental health and addiction fields and the proven efficacy of the FSAP protocol.
One of the first therapy modalities to posit a link between mood and thinking was Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). MBCT was developed by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams and John Teasdale, based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program. New research shows that during any episode of depression, negative mood occurs alongside negative thinking (such as ‘I am a failure’, ‘I am inadequate, ‘I am worthless’) and bodily sensations of sluggishness and fatigue. When the episode has passed, and the mood has returned to normal, the negative thinking and fatigue tend to disappear as well. However, during the episode a connection has formed between the moods that were present at that time, and the negative thinking patterns. Thus, the depressed person is set up for recurrent depressive episodes triggered by either negative mood or negative thinking.
EMDR is, of course, structured to relieve the ‘blockage’ of experiences that are supported by negative cognitions, most commonly, one or all of the above.
FSAP proposes that “Addictions are created when a desired feeling and behavior become fixated together. For example, if the feeling of being a winner has become fixated with the behavior of gambling, the person gambles in order to feel like a winner. Even when he loses, the fixation between the feeling of winning and the behavior of gambling will persist. Bad outcomes such as losing a lot of money will not alter this fixation as it defies all rational learning.” The FSAP breaks the fixation between feeling and behavior. This fixation is the cause of addictions. By identifying the exact feeling and behavior, the fixation can be processed using a modified form of the EMDR protocol. Once the fixation is broken, there are no further cravings or urges that have to be controlled or behavior that has to be managed. In fact the person is able to perform the behavior as appropriate.
FSAP goes on to explain that, “Because any feeling can become fixated with any behavior, identifying the exact feeling and behavior are crucial steps in the FSAP procedure. For example, shopping has many different sub-behaviors such as going into the store, having people wait on you, trying on clothes, buying the items etc. any one of these parts of shopping may be behavior that creates the most intense positive feeling. The behavior that creates the most intense positive feeling is the particular behavior that has to be identified.”
In addition to identifying the exact behavior, the exact feeling also has to be identified. A shopping compulsion might be connected with the feelings of power, status, relaxation or being special. Whatever the feeling is, FSAP requires the intensely desired positive feeling underlying the compulsive fixation be identified.
Once the exact feeling and behavior has been identified then a modified form of EMDR is used to process the fixation. The entire process usually requires 5-6 sessions, spaced over several months. The exact number of sessions varies due to the fact that more than one feeling may become fixated with the same behavior in order to completely eliminate the compulsive fixations, all the feelings must be processed.
So, in addition to cognitive-behavioral approaches, motivational interviewing, experiential interventions and more, FSAP gives us an organized, researched approach with which to directly attack the cognitive “structure” of addiction and addictive behavior that has become linked in the brain of an addict.