EMDR is recognised by the World Health Organisation (2013) as an effective therapy for children and adolescents who have experienced traumatic events. It also has the highest recommendation for Children and Adolescents with PTSD from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS, 2018).
It is very common for children and adolescents to feel distressed following a trauma. In most cases symptoms improve within a few weeks. Unfortunately, a small percentage will go on to develop symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as other symptoms such as anxiety or hopelessness.0
After experiencing trauma, a child may have recurring nightmares or cope by avoiding things associated with the disturbing experience. For example, a child who experienced a car accident may exhibit defiant behavior when in a vehicle, or protest having to travel in the first place.
Essentially, EMDR can help the brain “digest” the memory of the traumatic event.
EMDR can be adapted depending upon the specific needs and developmental stage of your child or adolescent. For example, pictures may be used instead of words or the therapist may write a story or narrative about the traumatic events to make the therapy more accessible to children who are struggling to talk about the trauma.
EMDR is effective and well supported by research evidence for treating children with symptoms accompanying posttraumatic stress (PTSD), attachment issues, dissociation, and self-regulation. It has also been effective in treating symptoms related to guilt, anger, depression, and anxiety, and can be used to boost emotional resources such as confidence and self-esteem.
During the past five years, the World Health Organization and the California Evidence Based-Clearinghouse for Child Welfare recommended two psychotherapies for children, adolescents, and adults with PTSD: trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy and EMDR. Of the two modalities, some of the research describes EMDR as “significantly more efficient.” My experience as a therapist echoes these recommendations.