Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an extensively researched, effective psychotherapy method proven to help people recover from distressing life experiences and manage symptoms associated with the following:
EMDR therapy does not require talking in detail about the distressing issue, or homework between sessions. EMDR supports the brain to resume its natural healing process, so the client does not feel controlled by disturbing memories. Part of the therapy includes alternating eye movements, sounds, or taps. For children, it is possible to use other forms of movements that are playful such as: patty-cakes, drumming, magic wands, ball games, marching, stomping, and dancing. EMDR can be integrated with other modalities such as art therapy, play therapy, sandtray and other creative interventions. For many clients, EMDR therapy can be completed in fewer sessions than other psychotherapies.
Our brains have a natural way to recover from traumatic memories and events. This process involves communication between the amygdala (the alarm signal for stressful events), the hippocampus (which assists with learning, including memories about safety and danger), and the prefrontal cortex (which analyzes and controls behavior and emotion). While many times traumatic experiences can be managed and resolved spontaneously, others may not be processed without help.
Stress responses are our natural fight, flight, or freeze instincts. When distress from a disturbing event remains, the upsetting images, thoughts, and emotions may create feelings of overwhelm, of being back in that moment, or of being “frozen in time.” EMDR therapy helps the brain process these memories and allows normal healing to resume. The experience is still remembered, but the fight, flight, or freeze response from the original event is resolved.
After discussing the client’s history, the client the client will be asked to focus on a specific event. Attention will be given to a negative image, belief, feelings, and body sensations related to this event. While the client focuses on the upsetting event, the therapist will begin sets of side-to-side eye movements, sounds, or taps. The client will be guided to notice what comes after each set. There might be changes in insights, images, feelings, body sensations, and/or beliefs regarding the event. The client has full control to stop reprocessing at any point if needed. The sets of eye movements, sounds, or taps are repeated until the event becomes less disturbing. Then, the client will focus their attention on a positive belief that would indicate the issue was resolved. After, the client will process any disturbance still left in their body related to this event. This process may take many sessions to complete; however, before the end of the session, the therapist supports the client to feel grounded and close the session.
Experiencing or witnessing a unpleasant events can make everyday life a lot harder for a child or teen. Even more common upsetting events such as school problems, bullying, cyberbullying, death, divorce, poor academic performance, low self-esteem, and family problems can also make life seem hard to manage
EMDR therapy is a way to work through troubling thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to these events. It helps build healthy coping skills and increases a child’s sense of self-worth. EMDR also strengthens feelings of success and calmness, while reducing negative beliefs and emotions from distressing situations.
EMDR therapy can be done in-person or via virtual platforms and must be done with a properly trained and licensed mental health clinician.
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