At their emotional root, addictions share a lot of similarities:
Pain - in all addictions there is a core discomfort or pain, and a compulsion to do something to relieve it.
The reasons for the pain and its severity will vary from person to person; the neurochemistry involved will vary based on both the person, and the drug or activity used; and the desired state or high, will vary as well.
Gabor Maté's thoughts on the relationship between pain and addiction:
Trauma - it could be a root trauma that the addiction was created to escape, or the traumatic results of the addiction itself, played out internally or in the community. Either way, the trauma needs to be addressed in order to reduce or eliminate the need for relief and escape.
Internal Conflict - common to all addictions is a conflicted internal dialogue.
The desire, longing, and feeling of need intrinsic to all addictions is a very right-brain experience: it operates outside of time (in the now), it's not particularly logical, it's emotionally motivated, creative, driven towards positive sensory experiences, and not particularly concerned about consequences.
The aftermath, or comedown, is when the left-brain kicks back in: suddenly consequences reassert themselves, as do logic, history, and regret; it looks at the past and sees failure, it projects this pattern to the future and leaches away hope. This lack of hope and space of judgment pave a deeper path on this cycle of use.
By stimulating both sides of the body, and therefore both sides of the brain, EMDR can create connection and dialogue between these two unintegrated experiences; desire is undercut by the memory of regret, emotion is tempered by logic, and the big picture, once established, is there to stay.
EMDR as a therapy was developed for trauma, and most of the research has been directed towards that, but the anecdotal experiences of therapists who use it to treat addiction look incredibly promising. I've had positive in my own private practice, as well.
When doing addiction work, I use Motivational Interviewing in conjunction with EMDR. These modalities work well together because both operate on the premise that every person has a pretty good idea of what health looks like. It might seem impossible to reach, it might change over time, it might be something only seen on TV, but there is a template or foundation of belief from which to work. Motivational Interviewing encourages people to nourish their own ideas about health, and to explore and acknowledge any internal conflicts that might be holding them back. It requires meeting people where they are in their process, without any shame or judgment, and exploring what’s true for them.
I enjoy doing addiction work, in-part because I’ve been around a lot of addiction, and have seen the consequences to people and their communities. I’m also just grateful for my ability to be that non-judgmental ear that can help people relax and feel safe to explore.