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EMDR for Children & Teens

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is an effective way for people to work through and heal from past trauma and the emotional distress, core beliefs, and relational patterns that come from the traumatic experiences.


There are 8 phases to EMDR: history taking, client preparation, assessment, desensitization (what most people think of when they hear EMDR: this is the eye movements and reprocessing stage), installation, body scan, closure, and reevaluation of treatment effect. For now, it isn’t necessarily important to know what each of these phases mean – you’ll want to know more once you or your child start EMDR, but it was important to highlight that the actual reprocessing and desensitization doesn’t happen until after history taking, client preparation, and assessment. Most people get excited to dive into EMDR reprocessing after hearing how effective it is – and rightly so! – but preparing for EMDR is equally as important, especially for children and teens.


EMDR can be intense, and it is important for children and teens to be prepared for what is going to happen during session and what could happen in between sessions. Preparation includes building a therapeutic relationship and safety, learning skills and building on resources to help manage any temporary emotional discomfort during or between sessions, and discussing what memories they would like to work with to build a treatment plan. Each of these things allows your child to feel safe, ready, and prepared to do the work well. While it can take some time, preparing on the front end will set your child up for success and healing through EMDR. It is important for one to be somewhat stable and ready for EMDR before starting the reprocessing.


Usually, EMDR is done with following the therapist’s fingers or a lightbar side to side or with alternating taps on shoulders or knees, whichever is most comfortable for the client. For children and teens, these may not be as effective for different reasons. Some therapists use buzzers that can be worn around the child’s wrists or ankles, walking, or tossing a ball from one hand to the other to stimulate the bilateral movement in one’s brain during the reprocessing stage.


If you are interested in learning more about what the process would look like for your child or think that you or your child would benefit from EMDR, feel free to reach out to us at!

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