What is DeTUR & CravEx? EMDR for Addiction Recovery

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What is DeTUR & CravEx? EMDR for Addiction Recovery

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a common treatment method for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health disorders. However, there are also specific sub-sets of EMDR for addiction recovery. 

What Is EMDR?

EMDR was first developed to treat PTSD. This treatment involves reprocessing traumatic memories while interacting with images, sounds, or sensations that activate both sides of the brain. 

The basis of EMDR is the idea that people with PTSD have a “maladaptive memory core,” which causes intrusive, distracting, and disturbing memories that either perpetuate the illness or hinder successful treatment. EMDR helps manage the feelings and reactions to those traumatic memories by reliving them in a safe space. This therapy approach also tries to instill positive feelings and beliefs associated with the memory so that the client becomes desensitized. 

This treatment typically takes about six to 12 sessions. During the sessions, the client and therapist work through eight stages that help identify and reprocess a traumatic memory that may be negatively impacting the patient’s life. The eight stages of EMDR are:

  • Client history and treatment planning
  • Preparation
  • Assessment
  • Desensitization
  • Installation
  • Body scan
  • Closure and stabilization
  • Reevaluation and continuing care

Now that we’ve covered the basics of EMDR let’s move on to the specifics of EMDR for addiction recovery.


The CravEx protocol sticks very closely to the basic methods and stages of EMDR but is formatted specifically for people with substance use disorder (SUD). CravEx uses the concept of “addiction memory” (AM) because it closely resembles the maladaptive memory found in people with PTSD. This similarity makes EMDR a great way to treat addiction.

Instead of focusing on a specific traumatic memory, CravEx targets memories of past cravings and relapses. It also focuses on the present instead of the past in order to address triggers and help clients remain sober. Creating a “future template” is also very important, as it helps a client plan for future situations and know how to approach them to maintain their abstinence. Like basic EMDR, CravEx also helps to “facilitate adaptive behavior” so that the client is able to manage their AM and triggers better in the future.

CravEx works best when used at the same time as “usual” treatment for addiction, like group therapy, family therapy, and peer recovery coaching. This joint approach is very effective, with clients reporting a significant reduction in cravings after one month. In addition, patients who used CravEx and typical treatment approaches were less likely to relapse after six months than clients who only received typical treatment approaches. 


The second type of EMDR for addiction recovery is desensitization of triggers and urge reprocessing, or DeTUR. This protocol differs more from basic EMDR than CravEx does. 

First, instead of one therapist, DeTUR uses a treatment team to provide more comprehensive care. Second, unlike both regular EMDR and CravEX, DeTUR works from the past to the present instead of the other way around. Third, instead of focusing on positive emotions or beliefs to address memories, DeTUR “accesses positive experiences through positive body states.”

The reason for working from past to present is to get to the root triggers. Desensitization to these triggers influences the future goals for the treatment of other triggers. This approach also seems to help increase self-confidence, which increases the likelihood of staying sober.

DeTUR also uses 12 steps instead of the eight used in EMDR and CravEx. They follow the same basic structure but focus more on client support and trigger desensitization. These steps are: 

  • Rapport
  • History, assessment, diagnosis
  • Support resources
  • Accessing internal resource state
  • Positive treatment goal
  • Associated positive state
  • Identify urge triggers
  • Desensitize triggers
  • Install positive state
  • Test and future check
  • Closure and self-work
  • Follow-up sessions

A plus to DeTUR that may appeal to some clients is that it can be used by people with SUD early in treatment without too much fear of causing a relapse. Even if a client relapses, DeTUR doesn’t treat it as a failure but as a new target for future treatment sessions.

Why Use EMDR for Addiction Recovery?

EMDR for addiction recovery is a useful treatment because it helps get to the root causes and triggers of SUD. Instead of treating surface-level problems, EMDR tries to process the memories and triggers that cause the problems.

This approach fits in very well with other treatment options as well, as it draws some inspiration from other therapeutic approaches like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Group work is also highly encouraged, especially with DeTUR. This is excellent for SUD treatment, as it has been shown that having a community of people who have been through the same experiences helps significantly with recovery.

EMDR for addiction recovery is another tool to treat SUD, and when used with the other treatment options, it offers hope for a happy and sober future.