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What Is EMDR Therapy Used to Treat?

Eye of a person wondering what EMDR therapy is used for in mental health treatment

Though initially developed by psychologist Francine Shapiro for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy has become critical to the effective treatment of many people with substance use disorders (SUDs). Traumatic memories and the long-term effects of past trauma dramatically affect people’s ability to live their lives and make them much more likely to seek symptom relief through drugs or alcohol and, thus, more vulnerable to addiction. An EMDR therapy program is a crucial addiction treatment for people coping with past or ongoing trauma. Whether you have an SUD or not but suffer from PTSD, EMDR is one of the best options.

At Apex Recovery Nashville, our EMDR therapy for PTSD and addiction is provided by skilled, highly trained therapists in a caring and safe environment. To get answers to “What does EMDR therapy treat?” and “How does EMDR therapy work?” as well as other questions, reach out to Apex Recovery Nashville today by completing this form or dialing 615.703.4639.

What Is EMDR Therapy Used For?

In any situation in which a person has experienced past trauma that continues to affect their daily lives and ability to function, EMDR can be highly effective. This therapy helps reorganize the way the brain holds onto traumatic memories by using bilateral movement—most commonly eye movements. This may sound mysterious, but remember, the brain is characterized by remarkable neuroplasticity, meaning it can change in response to internal or external stimuli by reorganizing its structure, functions, and connections.

Thus, EMDR can help people heal from the emotional turbulence and distress of PTSD. EMDR is effective in a much shorter period than the traditional therapy models previously used for trauma.

Based on the brain’s ability to heal, EMDR transforms the lives of people who experience it. In addiction treatment, EMDR helps people recover from the symptoms of PTSD so they can begin recovery from a more vital place and without the symptoms that so tormented them that they could not envision life without drugs or alcohol.

How Does EMDR Therapy Work?

In the highly goal-oriented process of EMDR therapy, you will work with a therapist through the following steps.

Discuss past or ongoing trauma with your therapist, and if there is more than one incident of trauma, choose an area to target. This is often the most challenging session for clients because they are asked to revisit their trauma. However, EMDR therapists know how to help you manage this part of the process and can suggest strategies you can use during the exploration:

  • Learn stress reduction skills from your therapist. These will be helpful to you between sessions.
  • Several sessions will be devoted to using bilateral brain stimulation through eye movement. This will help you process your trauma and shift the targeted experience and associated memories to a part of the brain that will no longer trigger flashbacks and other retraumatizing experiences.
  • Creating positive beliefs and amplifying healing and pleasant emotions will become increasingly possible. You will focus on this for the duration of your EMDR therapy.
  • Writing about the EMDR experience helps you recognize additional information, emotions, and insights you can review and process with your therapist. You will also write about what your future will look like from now on.
  • You and your therapist will test the success of your EMDR treatment by confirming that traumatic memories no longer trigger you. The memories are still there, but they have no more power to activate or dismay you.

Regardless of your trauma, whether sexual abuse, domestic or other violence, natural disaster, wartime combat, subjugation, tragic loss, or any other possibility, you can proceed through life without fear that your trauma will hold you back. If you are dealing with a substance use disorder, you can begin recovery in earnest because you have cleared the trauma’s ongoing effect on your life.

Find Relief with EMDR Therapy at Apex Recovery Nashville

EMDR therapy for anxiety, PTSD, and depression, as well as a focus of EMDR to treat addiction, is available at Apex Recovery Nashville. What is EMDR therapy used for? It is used to heal people like you who are still oppressed by past trauma. Let Apex Recovery Nashville help. Call us at 615.703.4639 or contact someone on our staff by completing this form.

Brenna O’Brien, LCSW

Lead Therapist

Brenna is a Nashville native who earned both her undergraduate and master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from The University of Tennessee where she graduated in 2011. She has a thirteen-year background working in the behavioral health field with adults at all levels of care. Brenna started her career working at a local inpatient hospital, followed by a six year career with a residential co-occurring treatment center. Brenna served as the founder and director of the Clinical Consultant team where she developed protocols to assist patients in getting access to care efficiently without sacrificing customer service. As a result of her efforts, she was named the treatment center’s Innovator of the Year in 2018. She loves to be the voice of hope for patients and families in crisis by providing education and clinical direction.
Brenna’s fun-loving and accepting nature has served her well as a clinician treating individuals struggling with complex trauma, anxiety, depression, perfectionism, and co-occurring disorders. Brenna is a certified NARM therapist and co-owner of SHEchiatry, PLLC, a boutique mental health practice for women in Nashville.

During her off time, you can find Brenna thrift shopping alongside her French Bulldog Reau. She also particularly enjoys early mornings with a matcha latte followed by all things local.

Flora Sadri-Azarbayejani, D.O., MPH, FAAFP, FASAM

Medical Director

Flora Sadri-Azarbayejani graduated from Boston University with a degree in biomedical engineering. She would later go on to complete two master’s degrees at Boston University, one in epidemiology and biostatistics and the other in medical science, along with her doctorate in medicine from the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine. Dr. Sadri began her career as an epidemiologist in infectious disease for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. After medical school, she began her career as a family physician at The Community Health Center of Franklin County and then Gardner Family Medicine, a private practice in Gardner, MA. Dr. Sadri made the decision to work with the recovery community as a physician at CleanSlate Centers, then become part of the Promises Behavioral Health leadership team, and then continued her career at PsyclarityHealth.

Dr. Sadri-Azarbayejani is an involved member of medical societies, including the Massachusetts Medical Society, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), and the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)and has a publication in AAFP News detailing how family medicine can lead addiction care efforts.

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Fred Bowen

Founder & Board Member

Fred was raised in San Clemente, California. Fred was exposed to the drug culture at a very early age. By the time Fred had graduated from high school, his addiction had progressed to a point that most people do not return from. For another decade, he struggled with addiction and recovery with multiple attempts at abstinence. There were periods of homelessness along with periods of high functioning and experiencing success. Fred realized, ultimately, that addiction was always in control. At the age of thirty, on death’s door, Fred had hit rock bottom and had a moment of clarity that would save his life. That clarity was the sea of change in his life.

20 years later, Fred is not able to recognize his past life in comparison to where he is now. Early on, Fred had made the decision that addiction and recovery would be his sole vocation. He started sober living homes and found that working with people that suffered from the same addiction would be his passion. This was the beginning of Apex Recovery.

“I’m extremely proud of the person I have become simply by staying clean and having an open mind in regards to the recovery process.”

Fred’s hope for anyone suffering the way he did is to be able to find a way out of the vicious cycle of addiction. Recovery is a gift that all are entitled to. Apex can be a part of that.

Jennifer Adams

Chief Legal Officer

Jennifer has over 25 years of experience in the healthcare industry. She began her career as a paralegal in the legal department of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBST), where she spent 15 years learning the health insurance industry. Jennifer held various positions at BCBST, including paralegal, senior privacy consultant, chief privacy, security and compliance officer for a technology subsidiary, and shared health and senior counsel.

Jennifer then further advanced her healthcare experience by joining the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for almost 10 years. Jennifer served as the director for payer Relations, where she was responsible for managing all payer relationships across the country for the VA. In her last position, Jennifer was a member of the Senior Executive Service (SES) and served as the executive director for integrated external networks, which was responsible for the development, oversight, and management of the community care network program that provides veterans access to community providers when VA cannot provide the service timely or close to home.

Jennifer joined Apex Recovery in February 2023 as our chief legal officer. Jennifer graduated from Tennessee Wesleyan College with a Bachelor of Science business degree in human resource management, economics, and finance. She also holds a Juris Doctorate degree from the Nashville School of Law.

Branch Atkisson

National Director of Business Development

A passion for helping those in need started with Branch’s own personal experience growing up. This morphed into professional expertise in the areas of outreach and community development.

A true understanding of what treatment resources are available and how to connect those in need with them has allowed him to develop relationships that continue to benefit APEX’s patients. “I love sitting with addicts and their families in moments of crisis and helping them understand there is hope through the process of treatment!”

Shauna Soderquist

Director of Admissions

Shauna Soderquist is the director of admissions at Apex Recovery. With over nine years of industry experience, Shauna is committed to helping those who struggle with addiction and has experience with all facets of the admissions cycle. Her experience includes lead development, account management, building and growing teams, and recruitment and training. She brings a high-level understanding of insurance and financial implications of treatment. Shauna is a high performer who is driven to meet and exceed goals and while her career path has given her exposure to all parts of the treatment and recovery processes, her passion will always be in building and maintaining relationships with clients while helping them admit to treatment.

Shauna resides in Thompson’s Station, TN with her husband, and two children and is an active member of her community. When she is not helping those who struggle with addiction, she enjoys spending time with her family, working out, traveling, and enjoying live music.

Michael Cartwright

Chairman of the Board

There is no end in sight for Michael Cartwright. He has a sincere goal to provide endless resources to those who truly want to release the grip of addiction.

Known as a premiere addiction industry trailblazer, Michael Cartwright is a noted behavioral health entrepreneur. He founded Performance Revolution LLC, also known as Fit-Rx, in 2009 and, from that success, was then able to merge with a company named Forterus with a successful history of treating over 12 million individuals in need of addiction treatment. Another success in the industry was the founding of Foundations Recovery Network.

Soon thereafter, Forterus grew and developed into AAC or American Addiction Centers being led by their chairman of the board, Michael Cartwright.

Michael Cartwright is a pillar in dual diagnosis management and the founder of Foundations Associates. Under his management, the organization grew to include four alcohol and drug treatment facilities nationwide, including the Canyon, the leading recovery facility in Malibu, California. One highlight in Michael’s service career is when he served and testified on the Senate Help Subcommittee on Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services.

Dr. Matthew Bruhin


Dr. Matthew J. Bruhin is the chief executive officer of APEX Recovery. Along with co-founder Fred Bowen, Dr. Bruhin utilized his experience in the creation of high-end rehabs to construct a center that was cutting-edge and affordable yet lacked nothing. His vision, eye for detail, and desire to lead have created an unparalleled vision for treating addictive disorders coupled with mental and emotional concerns. Dr. Bruhin treats every staff member and participant like family and hopes to bring his clinical and administrative vision to many.

Dr. Bruhin is a State of California Board of Behavioral Sciences-licensed marriage and family therapist as well as an addiction specialist registered by the Breining Institute. Dr. Bruhin earned his doctorate in addiction psychology, has a Master of Arts degree in counseling psychology, and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology with a minor in addictive disorders. Additionally, he holds many other certifications and has tens of thousands of hours of clinical and training experience.

Dr. Bruhin has a diverse clinical training background, working in the mental health field for over 12 years. He specializes in the treatment of addiction and has specialized experience and clinical training in the treatment of prescription addiction, sexual addiction, and gambling addiction. He works with many individuals and families, ranging from those with chronic mental health conditions to high-level professionals, professional athletes, executives, Hollywood film producers, and TV personalities. He has developed his own specialized and effective techniques for the treatment of addiction and chemical dependency.

Dr. Bruhin loves to write and blog and he appears regularly on network TV as a leader in the addiction field. He has worked with clients from A&E’s hit TV show Intervention as well as the Tyra Show. Dr. Bruhin also performs local TV segments in order to get the public educated about addiction and to break down the stigma of mental health issues. Dr. Bruhin balances his passion for work with the love of his family, his enjoyment of travel, and his vintage Star Wars collection, which can be viewed in his private office.