January 12, 2017

EMDR Therapy for Children

Just like adults children can experience PTSD boy-scream-traumasymptoms. EMDR therapy is successful in treating trauma survivors both young and old and is the most researched psychotherapeutic treatment for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When a painful or upsetting experience happens, the memory of the experience sometimes stays “stuck” in the body and mind. Over time, the trauma may manifest in troubling and chronic behaviors and symptoms. In essence EMDR therapy can help the brain “digest” the memory of the traumatic event in a safe and effective way.

EMDR therapy works extremely well with children, as they tend to take to the process quickly and have experienced less accumulated trauma than adults. EMDR as “a non-drug, non-hypnosis psychotherapy procedure.  Children can be traumatized by any experience that overwhelms them. If the experience is too much for the child and their internal resources then they can be traumatized. Children can be traumatized in many different ways, not just through abuse or neglect. They can be effected by divorce, inconsistent parenting, bullied at school or humiliated by peers, medical trauma and repeated disappointments. Theses experiences cause long lasting negative effects and can lead to low self esteem, depression and unhappiness as a adult.

Children who are traumatized can exhibit the following symptoms:

  • the development of new fears
  • separation anxiety (particularly in young children)
  • sleep disturbance, nightmares
  • anger (increase in temper tantrums or rages response)
  • somatic complaints (stomachaches/headaches)

When should parents get help?  Of course, many children without PTSD exhibit behaviors similar to the symptoms listed above. So when should parents or other adults who observe any of these symptoms in a child seek professional treatment?girl teen trauma

  • When they know the child has experienced trauma even if it is in the past.
  • When the symptoms persist for more than three months  after the traumatic event.
  • When adults suspect trauma occurred and have observed several symptoms.
  • When the child’s behavior is significantly different from what it has been in the past or different than other children in the same age group.

Trauma treatment for children is highly effective. For more information about symptoms and treatment of PTSD in children, check out these books:

  1. Trauma Through a Child’s Eyes by Peter A. Levine and Maggie Kline
  2. Trauma-Proofing Your Kids by Peter A. Levine and Maggie Kline
  3. The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories by Bruce Perry
  4. Different Dream Parenting: A Practical Guide to Raising a Child with Special Needs by Jolene Philo
  5. Wounded Children, Healing Homes: How Traumatized Children Impact Adoptive and Foster Families by Jayne Schooler

Angi Smith, LMHC works with older children. Don’t wait! Get your child help today. Call family therapist Angi Smith, LMHC at 503-314-9337 to  discuss your child’s needs and to schedule a appointment.