How does EMDR Therapy work for children?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR therapy) is a powerful therapeutic technique originally developed to treat adults suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Over time, research has shown that EMDR therapy can also be highly effective for children, helping them process and overcome traumatic experiences, anxiety, and various other emotional and behavioral issues. At Brittani Persha Counseling in Houston, TX, we specialize in using EMDR therapy to support the mental health and well-being of children. In this blog, we will explore how EMDR works for children and how it can make a significant difference in their lives.

How does EMDR therapy Work?

EMDR therapy consists of eight structured phases that guide the treatment process. These phases ensure that the therapy is comprehensive and tailored to the individual’s needs. Here’s a brief overview of each phase and how it applies to children:

  1. History Taking and Treatment Planning: In this phase, the therapist gathers information about the child’s history, current symptoms, and specific traumatic or distressing experiences. This helps in creating a tailored treatment plan. For children, this may involve discussions with parents or caregivers to get a complete picture of the child’s background and concerns.
  2. Preparation: The therapist explains the EMDR process to the child in a way that is age-appropriate and comforting. Building a trusting relationship is crucial in this phase. The therapist also teaches the child coping mechanisms and relaxation techniques to use during and outside of therapy sessions.
  3. Assessment: In this phase, the therapist and child identify specific target memories or experiences to process. The child is asked to focus on an image or aspect of the traumatic memory, along with any negative beliefs and feelings associated with it. The therapist also helps the child establish a positive belief they would like to adopt.
  4. Desensitization: Using bilateral stimulation, the therapist guides the child through sets of eye movements, taps, or tones while the child focuses on the traumatic memory. This process helps to desensitize the emotional response associated with the memory. The therapist checks in with the child regularly to gauge their emotional response and adjust the process as needed.
  5. Installation: Once the distress associated with the memory has decreased, the therapist helps the child focus on the positive belief they want to adopt. Bilateral stimulation is used again to strengthen this positive belief, helping the child integrate it more fully.
  6. Body Scan: The therapist guides the child to pay attention to any residual physical sensations in their body. This helps to ensure that any lingering distress is addressed and resolved. For children, this phase is often simplified to make it easier for them to understand and participate in.
  7. Closure: At the end of each session, the therapist ensures that the child feels safe and grounded. Techniques such as relaxation exercises or a positive activity are used to help the child leave the session feeling calm and secure.
  8. Reevaluation: At the beginning of the next session, the therapist reviews the progress made and assesses any remaining or new areas of distress. This helps to determine the focus of subsequent sessions and ensures that the therapy is effectively addressing the child’s needs.

How EMDR Helps Children

Processing Traumatic Memories

Children, like adults, can experience trauma that affects their emotional and psychological well-being. Traumatic events such as accidents, abuse, natural disasters, or the loss of a loved one can leave lasting scars. EMDR helps children process these traumatic memories in a safe and structured way. By reprocessing these memories, EMDR reduces the emotional intensity and helps children integrate the experiences without being overwhelmed by them.

Reducing Anxiety and Fear

Many children struggle with anxiety and fear related to specific events or general life experiences. EMDR can help address the root causes of these anxieties by targeting the underlying traumatic memories or distressing experiences. Through bilateral stimulation and guided processing, children learn to manage their anxiety and reduce their overall fear response.

Improving Emotional Regulation

Children with emotional and behavioral issues often struggle with regulating their emotions. EMDR helps children understand and process their emotions, leading to better emotional regulation. As children reprocess distressing memories and adopt positive beliefs, they become more capable of managing their emotional responses in various situations.

Enhancing Self-Esteem and Self-Concept

Traumatic experiences and negative beliefs can significantly impact a child’s self-esteem and self-concept. EMDR helps children replace negative beliefs with positive ones, improving their overall self-esteem. By focusing on positive beliefs and reinforcing them through bilateral stimulation, EMDR helps children build a healthier self-concept and a more positive outlook on life.

Strengthening Family Relationships

EMDR can also benefit family dynamics by addressing the child’s behavioral and emotional challenges. As children process their traumatic experiences and reduce their anxiety, they often become more open and communicative. This improved emotional state can lead to better relationships with family members, as the child is better able to express their needs and feelings constructively.

Providing Long-Lasting Results

One of the key benefits of EMDR is its ability to produce long-lasting results. By addressing the root causes of distress and helping children reprocess traumatic memories, EMDR creates lasting changes in the child’s emotional and psychological well-being. Many children experience significant improvements after just a few sessions, with continued progress as therapy progresses.

Beginning EMDR at Brittani Persha Counseling

At Brittani Persha Counseling in Houston, TX, our team of experienced therapists is dedicated to helping children overcome their challenges and thrive. We specialize in using EMDR to support children’s mental health and well-being. Our therapists are trained to create a safe and supportive environment where children can feel comfortable expressing their feelings and working through their experiences.

If you’re interested in scheduling an appointment for EMDR therapy, give us a call at 713-364-8645 or use the link below to schedule a free EMDR therapy consultation.

Featured eMDR Therapist at Brittani Persha Counseling

Megan Griffith, LPC, is an expert EMDR therapist at Brittani Persha Counseling in Houston, TX. Megan also provide services to individuals and groups, with concerns including, parenting, divorce, depressionanxiety, trauma, and self-esteem. She uses a variety of approaches in therapy such as EMDR, person-centered therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy. She enjoys being able to help clients, regardless of age, find their strengths, belief in self, and to help her clients navigate the many relationships and roles they have in life. If you’re interested in scheduling an appointment with Megan, please use the link below.

Yes, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is appropriate for kids. It can effectively treat trauma, anxiety, and other emotional distress in children. Therapists adapt the approach to be age-appropriate, using games and storytelling to make the process engaging and understandable. EMDR helps children process distressing memories and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

In EMDR for children, therapists use age-appropriate techniques like storytelling, drawing, or playing games. The child focuses on distressing memories or feelings while engaging in bilateral stimulation (eye movements, taps, sounds). This helps process emotions and reduce distress, promoting healing and adaptive coping skills.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) primarily targets trauma-related symptoms rather than ADHD symptoms. While it can help with anxiety and related issues, its effectiveness specifically for ADHD symptoms is not well-established. Treatments like behavioral therapy and medication are typically more effective for managing ADHD symptoms.

To explain EMDR to a child, you can say: “EMDR is like a way to help our brains feel better when we have scary or sad feelings. We might play games or draw while thinking about these feelings. Then, we do something with our eyes or hands that helps us feel less scared. It’s like magic for our feelings, helping us feel strong and happy again.”

EMDR may not be suitable for individuals who are currently experiencing severe mental health conditions that require stabilization before trauma processing, such as active psychosis or severe dissociation. Additionally, individuals who are unwilling or unable to engage in the process of revisiting distressing memories or sensations may not benefit from EMDR. It’s essential for therapists to assess each client’s readiness and suitability for EMDR based on their specific circumstances and needs.

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