Early intervention for trauma can help adolescents with nightmares, PTSD, and other emotional issues that arise from traumatic experiences. The causes of this can vary. For some, it is a result of violent acts they have witnessed. For others, it’s the result of physical or sexual abuse.
Meanwhile, others experience PTSD due to a natural disaster or lost a loved one in an accident. Fortunately, EMDR therapy has emerged as an effective treatment for PTSD in teens.
EDMR: The Brain and Traumatic Memories
EMDR therapy is a relatively new type of psychotherapy introduced by Dr. Francine Shapiro to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. It’s a type of psychotherapy that helps people manage the symptoms of trauma, PTSD, anxiety, and other mental health disorders that usually stem from traumatic memories.
Traumatic memories are thought to be stored differently than ordinary memories. Trauma memories emphasize the emotional and sensory, rather than just the words or images. For example, a survivor of sexual assault might remember the feeling of being held down, but not the attacker’s face. Or a child physically abused might experience a trauma response when someone raises their hand. They don’t necessarily remember what happened.
These traumatic memories may become so embedded that their impact continues to resurface in their lives. For many people who have PTSD, EDMR offers an opportunity for healing by helping them to reframe their traumatic memories.
Using EDMR to Dissolve Trauma’s Hold on the Mind
EDMR therapy involves recalling the trauma while simultaneously undergoing bilateral stimulation, including side-to-side eye movements, tapping, or sounds played through headphones. This stimulus stimulates both sides of one’s brain, which helps a person process and store the experience more like a typical memory.
During EMDR therapy sessions, a therapist guides you through a structured process of recalling traumatic memories while stimulating your brain with eye movements or other rhythmic sensory input. This appears to help the brain reprocess the memory and make it less distressing. It also includes using methods like:
- Eye movements: The therapist will ask your child to track their finger with their eyes as it moves from side to side.
- Tapping: The therapist will tap their fingers near your child’s head as they follow the therapist’s hand with their eyes.
- Sounds or tones: The therapist will play tones or sounds through headphones as your child focuses on the noise while following their finger with your eyes as they move it from side to side.
What Can I Expect From Treatment?
The evaluation will include talking about your primary concerns, but it may also involve taking a detailed history from childhood up through the present. Once they have been cleared for treatment, standard EMDR therapy involves eight phases:
- History and treatment planning: taking a history, formulating a treatment plan
- Preparation: psyching the client up for the work to be done
- Assessment: determining which memories will be targeted for reprocessing
- Desensitization: reprocessing specific memories
- Installation: establishing the new perspective on the memory
- Body Scan: checking for uncomfortable sensations in the body related to the event
- Closure: ending the session at a comfortable place
- Reevaluation: continuing therapy as needed, assessing progress, determining next steps, ending the treatment process with a plan.
Many people report experiencing a “catharsis” or a sense of relief and a feeling of being “lighter” after EDMR treatment. Teens also notice that they feel more energized and positive after experiencing EDMR.
Is EDMR Right for My Teen?
Being a teenager is already difficult enough without dealing with the debilitating effects of trauma. Research shows that childhood traumatic experiences are major risk factors for various psychiatric disorders and SUD. For adolescents and teens with complex cases of depression, anxiety, trauma, and substance abuse, EDMR is often the best choice. Clinical research demonstrates EDMR’s effectiveness in treating these conditions in teens. Teens who have experienced EDMR therapy report that it has helped them to:
- Overcome painful memories and stop being haunted by the past.
- Improve the ability to focus.
- Sharpen concentration skills and learning abilities.
- Reduce ADHD symptoms and more.
- Free themselves from fear, anxiety, and panic attacks.
- Find more peace with themselves.
- Improve relationships with others.
- Improve their self-esteem and confidence.
- Stop feeling so angry all the time.
- Stop feeling guilty or ashamed.
- Live happier lives.
We recommend finding a therapist who specializes in EDMR for treatment. EDMR does not involve medication or hypnosis, making it an ideal therapy choice for anyone who may have concerns about these alternative approaches.
EDMR offers hope as a treatment option that uses scientific principles, and clinical results show it has helped so many. EMDR is a relatively recent innovation in the field of psychotherapy. It can seem like uncharted territory to any parent wondering whether it will help their child with their issues. At Clearfork Academy, we understand that EDMR is not a miracle therapy; it takes time to work. However, the neurological effect on your teen’s brain makes it well worth the effort. Understand that the principles of EDMR come from well-established and trusted practices in medicine and psychotherapy. Therefore, we pride ourselves on setting the highest standards for the best possible treatment for our teen participants. While we use many different methods to help our participants achieve sobriety and heal after traumatic events, EDMR therapy is one of our most effective tools in this process. To find out more, contact us today by calling (888) 966-8604.