Or maybe they are exhibiting behaviour that’s concerning, like sudden outbursts, withdrawal, panic attacks, or plummeting academic performance? These issues can be baffling and distressing for any parent.
You might have tried other types of therapy, but they weren’t fully effective, leaving you still searching for a way to make real, lasting changes.
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It’s an interactive psychotherapy protocol used to relieve emotional distress. In simple terms, EMDR helps your brain process stuck emotions, negative thoughts and beliefs, and uncomfortable body sensations in order to achieve healthier coping and well-being. By focusing on bilateral movements like back-and-forth eye movements, marching, or tapping while recalling distressing events, your brain can reprocess the information, so it’s no longer emotionally disruptive.
EMDR is effective and well supported by researched evidence for treating children, teens, and adults with trauma and other distress. It could be the transformative step your child needs to move forward from the obstacles affecting their emotional well-being.
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:
We use play, art, and stories while using bilateral movements 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 it helps us experience good thoughts and feelings again.
This makes our body feel more safe and calm too!
If a child has experienced a traumatic event such as an accident, the loss of a loved one, or abuse, EMDR therapy can help them process these experiences and reduce associated symptoms like nightmares, flashbacks, panic, and fear.
EMDR can help children struggling with anxiety by targeting any past memories, thoughts, or beliefs that trigger their anxious feelings. By reprocessing these, EMDR can restore a sense of ease and safety in their nervous system. EMDR also focuses on helping the child develop more effective coping strategies to manage anxious feelings.
EMDR can be beneficial for children and teens struggling with depression. It helps identify and process the thoughts, beliefs, and experiences that contribute to their depressive symptoms while building more adaptive coping skills. It helps to identify their thoughts and beliefs about themselves, others, and the world around them. This can lead to an increase in hopefulness, motivation, and resilience over time.
If a child has a specific phobia, like vomiting or fear of dogs or social settings, sometimes their brain does not know how to handle upsetting events that have happened; they get stuck in the body and mind and continue to be experienced in distressing ways. A child may learn to cope by avoiding everything that becomes associated with that experience and the thoughts and sensations that maintain it.
EMDR can help treat children who show acting-out behaviours and have difficulty regulating difficult emotions such as anger. EMDR helps to process and resolve any specific triggers, experiences, or negative beliefs they have about themselves or others in order to promote greater regulation in the body.
EMDR can also be used to address negative self-beliefs and build confidence in children and teens. By targeting and reprocessing experiences that are related to their feelings of low self-esteem, EMDR therapy can help children develop a stronger, more positive sense of self.
We believe therapy is part of living a healthy life; you don’t have to be in crisis or facing an emergency to seek support. Our practice is built on long-term connections, and we walk with you as you navigate the different phases and challenges in your life.
While working with children and adolescents is what we’re best known for, we extend our specialized assessment and therapeutic support services to parents, adults, and couples who are on their own path to healing and living a life they love.
Our team members who offer EMDR therapy for children are certified Child EMDR Specialists, EMDR Parent-Child Attachment Specialists, and EMDR Sand Tray Specialists.
These are unique specialties that are obtained after receiving full adult EMDR certification.
EMDR is a structured therapy that involves 8 stages. It’s normal for the timeline and process to vary based on individual circumstances, so your child’s experience may not follow these phases exactly, but here is the framework you can expect their therapy to follow.
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 (“digest and file”) these distressing emotions, thoughts and beliefs, and body sensations, in order to achieve healthier coping and well-being. EMDR includes 8 phases (outlined above on this page) that address past, present, and future triggers. Each phase helps your child or teen work through their emotional distress as well as learn and practice skills to cope with current and future stress.
We have seasoned practitioners on our team who are certified Child EMDR specialists, EMDR Parent-Child Attachment Specialists, and EMDR Sand Tray Specialists. These are unique specialties obtained after adult EMDR therapy training has been completed. We integrate story telling, art, sand tray, games, and play into the EMDR process so that it matches children’s developmental level and collaboratively engages them in this step-by-step therapy model. For very young children, parents will actively support their child and, with the therapist, move their child through the story-telling process towards mastery and resolution. We are even able to help kids and teens process memories that occurred pre-verbally (prior to age 2-3).
EMDR protocols are evidence-based and have been shown to help children, teens, and adults overcome the impact of upsetting and traumatic events in their lives. Research has shown that children as young as 3 can benefit from EMDR.
They won’t forget the facts of what happened, but they will feel less anxious and triggered when they recall targeted past events. They will have more adaptive beliefs and thoughts about themselves once these memories are properly processed and filed in the brain. For instance, a teen may come in with negative beliefs about themselves in relation to a distressing event that happened to them (“I’m not safe; it was my fault”). After EMDR, they will recall that event with less distress and with more adaptive beliefs about themselves in relation to that event (“It wasn’t my fault; I’m safe now”).
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 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.
The results of EMDR therapy can vary depending on the child and the specific concerns being addressed. Also, changes may not be immediate but become apparent over time as the child continues to process and integrate their experiences post-therapy.
With consistency and support, you may notice improvements such as:
If you’re looking to get started with J. Gordon Psychology Group, get in touch! You can email, call or submit a message using our contact form.
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Helping your child find freedom from the thoughts and feelings that are holding them back