EMDR for Children & Adolescents
WHAT IS EMDR – FOR KIDS
Before we talk about what EMDR is let me tell you about what EMDR does. 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 all of this undigested mixed up thoughts and feelings inside ourselves. When we are so busy carrying all of this undigested stuff, we do not have space in our hearts, minds, and bodies for the good feelings and thoughts. EMDR can help kids by making their undigested thoughts and feelings smaller or even to 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 a very special lady came up with a cool name for kids: Eyes Moving to Digest and Recover!! Your brain is going to DIGEST these yucky mixed up thoughts and feelings.
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.
WHAT IS EMDR – FOR ADOLESCENTS
- Do you feel annoyed, angry or bored often?
- Do you isolate from others?
- Do you feel that you are not as good as others are?
- Do you have nightmares or have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep?
- Do you have negative events that happened to you? Do you tend to keep things inside and not tell anyone?
- Do you use drugs or alcohol or do you do things to harm your body to numb or escape the uncomfortable feelings? Or do you do this to fit in because you don’t feel connected to others, or you don’t feel as good as others?
Well, believe it or not a lot of kids, teens and adults feel this way, and there is help for all of us!! There is a way to find hope and find our positive feelings again.
It is really cool that you are interested in finding ways that can help you get better. Let’s start by talking about what happens when we go through tough stuff in our lives:
When we have bad or negative events in our lives like abuse, bullying, divorce, accidents, losses and death of a loved one, violence in the home among others, the brain creates ‘files’ or “apps” that contain all the feelings, thoughts, and body sensations connected to this event. When we have events that are not ‘too bad’, the brain has the capacity to work on these files/apps before storing them and locking them up as memories. What is stored has been sorted out and organized so the negative stuff has been let go, allowing us to keep the good stuff and learn from this experience.
However, when the event is really bad or has happened several times, these files/apps get overloaded and the brain can’t do the work of sorting things out and putting all the pieces of the event together. As a result, these files/apps are all messy, in pieces that are not put together and organized by the brain.
Different life events we call triggers can open up these files/apps or “click” on them. A “click” may be a classmate making fun of us, being ignored, not getting what we are asking for, parents asking us to clean up our room and so on. When these “clicks” open up the files/apps, we start to have the negative feelings, thoughts, and body reactions we had when the bad stuff happened. EMDR helps the brain organize these files and put all the pieces together. When the files/apps are finally organized, the “clicks” of everyday life won’t have the power to make us feel angry, sad or shameful or to think that we are not worthy or that we are not enough or to make us yell, become aggressive or do things we regret later. EMDR is not a “magic” cure. It takes some work, but it is so worth it because recovering our ability to feel good is worth all of our efforts.