What Is EMDR?

    Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), developed by psychologist Francine Shapiro, Ph.D in 1987,  is a psychotherapy treatment that is effective for resolving emotional difficulties caused by disturbing, difficult, or frightening life experiences. When children are traumatized, have upsetting experiences or repeated failures, they lose a sense of control over their lives. This can result in symptoms of anxiety, depression, irritability, anger, guilt, and/or behavioural problems.

    Even common upsetting childhood events, such as divorce, school problems, peer difficulties, failures, and family problems, can deeply affect a child’s sense of security, self-esteem, and development.

    When an upsetting, scary or painful experience happens, sometimes the memory of the experience stays “stuck” or “frozen” in the mind and body. The experience may return in a distressing and intrusive way and the child may cope by avoiding everything associated with the upsetting experience.

    EMDR uses alternating right-left tracking that may take the form of eye movements, which can be achieved by alternating hand taps, dance and even art. EMDR helps bring all parts of the brain/mind together, allowing access to the body’s natural healing mechanism.

    EMDR helps resolve the troubling thoughts and feelings related to the distressing memories so that children can return to their normal developmental tasks and prior levels of coping. In addition, EMDR can help to strengthen feelings of confidence, calmness and mastery.

    Can EMDR Help My Child?

    EMDR can be used with children and adolescents of all ages. Case reports indicate that EMDR has been used successfully with preverbal children, as well as with teens who do not want to talk out loud about the upsetting issues.

    The EMDR process and length of EMDR therapy is different for each child, because the healing process is guided from within. Some children report that EMDR is relaxing and have an immediate positive response. Other children may feel tired at the end of a session, and the benefit from the treatment comes in the days to follow.

    It is helpful for parents and professionals to explain that EMDR is a way to get over troubling thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. EMDR has been used to help children deal with traumatic events, depression, anxiety, phobias, and a variety of other behavioral problems.