EMDR for children and adolescents

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.

PTSD is caused by an inability to process the traumatic event naturally, often when the traumatic event feels especially overwhelming, shocking or distressing. An indication that your child or teenager may be struggling with symptoms of trauma following a traumatic event may include intrusions (episodes of ‘remembering’ the original event), flashbacks (where the child or adolescent may behave as if they are re-experiencing the original event) or avoidances of reminders of the event alongside behavioural or emotional changes. For some young people, therapy may be beneficial.

For further information on understanding trauma please see the following links :

Read this leaflet for Understanding Trauma: A guide for parents or carers of young children.

Read this leaflet for Understanding Trauma: A guide for parents and adolescents.

How does EMDR work with children and adolescents?

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.

Read these Leaflets to find out about how to explain EMDR to nursery-age children.

Male Therapist Version. Female Therapist Version

Read this leaflet for general information explaining how EMDR works with children and adolescents.

Finding a suitable child EMDR therapist

It is really important to find a suitable child EMDR therapist who has been specially trained to work with children who can build a good therapeutic relationship with both you and your child. Please ensure that the therapist has attended an accredited training in EMDR (as recognised by the UK & Ireland EMDR Association) and has also completed further accredited training to use EMDR with children and adolescents.

Many NHS services within the UK, Ireland, Scotland and Wales offer EMDR within CAMHS teams for children and adolescents.   There are also private or independent EMDR therapists or practitioners throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland and the EMDR Association website can help you to locate suitable accredited therapists in your area.

Should your child or adolescent experience an event of mass trauma (such as the terrorism or natural disasters occurring within the UK), there is additionally a service offering bespoke EMDR for these events by trained and accredited EMDR therapists. This is also available for adults affected by mass trauma events in the UK, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.  http://traumaresponsenetwork.org

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