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Child EMDR - Trauma Therapy

What is EMDR?

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing. The origin of EMDR was the observation of the apparent desensitising effect of spontaneous repeated eye movements on unpleasant thoughts. EMDR is considered a breakthrough therapy because of its simplicity and the fact that it can bring quick and lasting relief for most types of emotional distress and can be used with adults and children.

When a traumatic incident occurs it can cause the "freezing" of the information in its original anxiety-producing form, complete with the original image, negative self-assessment and emotions. EMDR is a treatment approach utilising bilateral stimulation (stimulation of both sides of the brain) to treat problems/issues based in unprocessed psychologically stored memories impacting present thoughts, emotions and behaviours. The therapy process features having the adult/child focus on the most distressing segment of a disturbing memory while moving the eyes rapidly from side to side. EMDR effects perceptions of the targeted memory (usually trauma-based) changing its form and meaning, decreasing the image vividness and the related emotions. It changes the body sensations accompanying the retrieved memory, leading to decreased emotionality, and therefore decreased discomfort.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing With Children

Child trauma is increasingly recognised as both widespread and detrimental to psychosocial development and quality of life. Children exposed to extreme distress and trauma, often have difficulty recovering unless special assistance is provided. It is best to treat traumatised children early, while symptoms are most apparent and have not yet become embedded in the personality.

Example: A child who was in the car when a family got hijacked might present with symptoms of distress, such as change in sleeping patterns, becoming clingy, tearful, separation anxiety and many more. In a typical EMDR session, the most distressing memory (like when the hijacker pointed a gun at Daddy) will be used to access, neutralize and bring adaptive resolution by using puppets, toys and eye movements.

Targets to be used in an EMDR session can be memories of traumatic events, images of a feared person, bad dreams, physical symptoms or sensations, specific anxieties or fears. Some very young and fearful children are more comfortable with their parent present, or at least very accessible nearby. In some cases, the parent will be invited into the session with the child sitting on the parent's lap while the therapist conducts the EMDR session.

What Problems can EMDR Help With?

  • PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
  • Phobias and panic disorders
  • Crime victims
  • Excessive grief due to the loss of a loved one
  • Sexual assault victims
  • Accident, surgery and burn victims who were emotionally or physically debilitated
  • Chemical dependency, sexual addiction and pathological gamblers
  • Peak performance
  • People with dissociative disorders
  • People with somatic problems/ somatoform disorders
  • Low self-esteem
  • Stress

How do I know if EMDR is Right for Me?

There are a number factors to consider when evaluating the appropriateness of EMDR therapy for a client's particular situation and history. During your initial consultation with a trained EMDR therapists, Karin Bronkhorst and Trix O'Callaghan all the relevant factors will be discussed in full to help you both come to a decision to move forward with EMDR.

Click here for more information on Adult EMDR.