EMDR for Children and Teens

EMDR is an evidence-based approach that has been shown to be effective for treating trauma, emotional difficulties, and distressing life events that are difficult to understand, cope with, and that feel overwhelming. After an upsetting or overwhelming experience, the memory of what happened can stay stuck or unprocessed in the mind and body. EMDR helps to process distressing emotions, thoughts/beliefs, and body sensations, in order achieve healthier coping and wellbeing.

We have Registered Psychologists who have intensive and specialized training in EMDR protocols for children and teens. This approach involves integrating play, art, story telling and games into the EMDR process so that it matches children’s developmental level and collaboratively engages them in this step-by-step therapy model.

EMDR has been shown to be an effective treatment for:

  • Trauma and post-traumatic stress
  • Upsetting and distressing life experiences
  • Phobias
  • Separation Anxiety
  • Depression/Low Self-Esteem
  • Regulation difficulties (Anger/tantrums)
  • Panic Attacks
  • Grief/Loss
  • Nightmares
  • Parent Divorce/Family Separation

EMDR also aims to strengthen resiliency in children and teens by replacing negative self-perceptions with more positive and adaptive beliefs about themselves. Research has shown that children even as young as 3 years old have been able to benefit from EMDR.

Explaining EMDR to children:

When scary and upsetting things happen to us, we can get mixed up thoughts and feelings that take up space and leave no room for our good thoughts and feelings. This can make us feel uncomfortable and unsafe in our bodies too.

We can think of our mind, our heart, and our body as our 3 “storytellers” who talk to us in different ways:

Our Thinking Mind tells our story through thoughts, beliefs, and pictures in our head.

Our Heart tells our story through feelings such as worry, sadness, and anger.

Our Body tells our story through sensations such as a racing heart, buzzy arms, a tight chest, or butterflies in our tummy.

We use play, art, and stories while using bilateral stimulation in fun ways like marching, drumming, or tapping (aka butterfly hug). The back and forth movement helps our mind and heart sort out and unstick all of the yucky thoughts and feelings and then helps us to experience good thoughts and feelings again.  This makes our body feel more safe and calm too.


Explaining EMDR to teens:


Our brain is like an information center that works to sort out and make sense of all the events we experience every day. Our brain does this by going through our events from the right side (our feelings brain) to the left side (our logical brain). Our brain does this too while we’re sleeping to help process any stressful stuff that happened in the day. However, when we have really upsetting things happen, it can cause our brain to get too overwhelmed and then we get “stuck” in hard feelings, negative thoughts and body reactions. EMDR uses left-right movements (like tapping our hands or knees, or moving our eyes from side to side) to help sort out these upsetting events so that they no longer have negative thoughts and feelings attached to them. This gives room for more positive thoughts and feelings and helps our body feel calm and safe again.



If you have any questions, please contact us to discuss whether EMDR may be helpful for your child or teen.






EMDR Canada

EMDR Therapy and Adjunct Approaches with Children by Ana Gomez

Stories and Storytellers: The Thinking Mind, the Heart, and the Body by Ana Gomez