EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. EMDR is a well-researched and effective treatment approach that is often associated with trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
What/Who is EMDR for?
To put it more simply, it’s for anyone who has had any distressing incidents or memories. EMDR is helpful in dealing with life’s little Traumas such as bullying, car accident, divorce, a move or change in schools as well as the big Traumas such as major illness/surgery, domestic violence, physical or sexual abuse/rape, crime victim.
These scary experiences can lead to mood changes such as increased anxiety, sadness, irritability and/or result in behavioral changes. These behavioral changes may include such as increased aggression or irritability or an increase in withdrawal behaviors.
These disturbing events/traumas are upsetting and can lead to the memories of these events getting “stuck”, either in the mind or body, or both and because of this they continue to cause distress.
How does EMDR work?
There is an initial screening and history taking session to gather all necessary information. The next few sessions are focused on building up the child or teen’s resources so that they are better able to manage their disturbing symptoms. The therapist and child/teen work together to choose a memory (target) that is most disturbing to them. The therapist then helps the child identify the negative thought that they feel with the “stuck” memory as well as identifying where they feel this in their body, e.g. stomach. While the child/teen thinks about the disturbing memory, bilateral stimulation is used.
Bilateral stimulation can include having the child/teen follow the therapist’s fingers back and forth with their eyes, hence the Eye Movement part of EMDR. This bilateral stimulation can be done in numerous ways such as using “Buzzers” that the child/teen can hold one in each hand as they alternately buzz. Listening to bilateral music, e.g. listening with headphones as the music or tones alternate from one ear to the other. Alternate tapping on knees, alternately softly squeezing your left arm and then the right as you have your arms crossed in a type of hug and tossing a ball from the right hand to the left can also be used.
As the disturbing memory is processed and becomes less distressing, the therapist helps the child/teen pair this memory with a positive thought, usually opposite to the original negative thought. While the child/teen will always have the memory, the “distress” as in negative thoughts and uncomfortable body sensations will be gone and instead the child/teen will have the positive thought, such as “I’m ok” or I’m safe”