EMDR for children

When we have yucky things that happen to us, we have many mixed-up feelings and many mixed-up thoughts. We do not feel good in our minds, bodies, and hearts. It is like carrying bags of mixed-up stuff. When we are so busy carrying all these bags, we do not have space in our hearts, minds, and bodies for the good feelings and thoughts. EMDR can help kids by making those bags smaller or even get rid of them so kids will have space for the good feelings and the good thoughts. Grown- ups have a rather complicated name for EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and reprocessing but Ana Gomez came up with a cool name for kids: Eyes Moving to Digest and Recover!!

When kids receive EMDR, one of the things they do is move their eyes from one side to another while they think about the yucky things that happened to them. Most kids don’t know this, but they actually do this every night….yes kids move their eyes every night while they are asleep and are having dreams. Grown ups call this Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep cycle. Ana calls this the “eyes dancing in the night.” EMDR helpers like Ana can also do other things instead of eye movement. They can tap your hands or knees back and forth or they can use sounds or music that move from one ear to the other.

When yucky things happen, the brain has a hard time putting all the pieces together and as a result, things that people say or do or things that kids see, hear, smell or touch can bring up the yucky memories, the mixed-up thoughts, feelings and body feelings connected to those yucky things. EMDR helps the brain put all the pieces together so the yucky stuff can leave us and the good stuff or the things we learned from it can stay so we get stronger. Then, the brain can chew up and digest all the mixed-up feelings and thoughts as well as the yucky feelings we may have in the body.

Why continue to carry bags of yucky stuff in our minds, hearts and bodies when we can be free from them and find our happy and exciting feelings again?

(Ana Gomez: EMDR Therapy and Adjunct Approaches with Children: Complex Trauma, Attachment and Dissociation.)

EMDR for adults

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy approach developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro to help people heal from trauma or adversities such as issues of abuse, bullying, domestic violence, grief/loss, attachment wounds, abandonment, PTSD, and many other complicated life issues. EMDR therapy is now validated as an evidence-based approach and included in SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) and the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices. In addition, EMDR therapy has been validated by over 20 randomized controlled clinical trials (see www.emdrhap.org/emdr_info/researchandresources.php).

EMDR therapy integrates elements of many traditional psychological orientations and is based on the adaptive information processing model (AIP). The AIP model hypothesizes that there is an inherent information processing system in the brain that gets blocked when traumatic or adverse events occur, causing these events to get locked in the brain with the original picture, sounds, thoughts, feelings and body sensations. Whenever a reminder of the traumatic or adverse event comes up, those pictures, thoughts, feelings, and sensations can continue to be triggered. According to Dr. Shapiro, many emotional problems and disorders are manifestations of these unprocessed trauma memories that are stored in the brain. EMDR therapy works on helping the brain reprocess these traumatic memories, and as a result alleviating the emotional and psychological disorders. 

EMDR therapy has been used with children and adolescents with a wide variety of emotional and psychological problems including PTSD, anxiety, phobias, depression, attachment disorders etc. The California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare has now accepted EMDR therapy as an evidence-based approach for children (Ana Gomez).