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EMDR for Children & Youth

EMDR is an evidence-based treatment method for children and youth that is very effective in treating trauma.  EMDR has a scripted "8-phase" protocol that is used all over the world. You can refer to the infographic further down this page. Children and youth tend to respond to EMDR better than adults (Eg: less emotional over-reactions, quicker progress). Our therapists have advanced training facilitating EMDR with children and youth which is a rare specialty as we use a modified child-friendly version of  the protocol. Modifications can be made to even to treat babies and infants.


At Kindred Counselling EMDR treatment is used with all children and teens in some way depending on their needs and is often mixed with other modalities like Play and Expressive Therapy. Doing this makes the process more attractive to young people  and makes it more likely for them to engage in the process.


EMDR helps children and youth overcome the negative impacts of trauma. Trauma is very subjective and depends on the child and youth's point of view in regards to what is troubling them.  The word "Trauma" often implies that a huge disaster has happened but in reality it can be a range of experiences varying in intensity, frequency, subjective disturbance level, with varying life impacts. 



You may request research articles and we will gladly email them to you.

Trauma Symptoms

Click below to learn more about possible symptoms children & youth may experience related to trauma

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Traumatic Experiences

Click below to learn more about experiences that could be traumatic for children and youth


What is a Child & Youth Session Like?

As mentioned earlier Play Therapy (Eg: Sandtray, art) and other therapies (talk) are used alongside EMDR especially in preparation sessions (phase 2). A typical EMDR session begins by having children use their imagination to strengthen their sense of confidence and well-being. E.G.: children may be asked to imagine a calm and protected place where they feel relaxed or to remember a time when they felt strong and confident. These positive images, thoughts and feelings are then combined with bls (Self-administer butterfly hug, use hand buzzies, eye movements).

Next, the child is asked to bring up an upsetting memory or event (target) that is related to the present problem. Bls is used again while the child focuses on the disturbing experience and the negative thoughts, emotions and sensations attached to it. Often other similar type events will be processed spontaneously. When an upsetting memory is eventually “desensitized” the child can remember the past event(s) without feeling upset, frightened, or avoidant.

“Reprocessing” simply means that new positive understandings, feelings and sensations replace the old disturbing thoughts, feelings, sensations and images. After EMDR treatment the troubling memories can be more comfortably recalled as “just something that happened,” and children have more adaptable believes about themselves and the past trauma. Therapists will further reinforce their transformation by having the child or youth imagine a challenging event happening in the near future and to imagine themselves handling it successfully all while simultaneously using bls.

EMDR Benefits


After trauma resolution the child will be back on a healthy developmental trajectory and may achieve the following outcomes:

  • Increased self-esteem, self-confidence and self-reliance

  • Increased ability to self-regulate: expanded window of tolerance

  • Better manage cognitive distortions: increased flexible thinking, ability to reframe negative thoughts, decrease negative self-talk and increased encouraging thoughts

  • Identify co-regulators (Eg: Knows who to go to for help)

  • Increase tolerance of unknown

  • Increase emotional, cognitive and physiological management and understanding

  • Increased emotional literacy and ability to authentically express emotions

  • Better communication skills (Eg: Express feelings, articulate personal needs)          

  • Self-care: Use personal resources to soothe herself

  • Mindfulness: use of breath, grounding and self-awareness                                 

  • Increased mastery experiences

  • Decreased depression and anxiety and other clinical symptoms

  • Better sleep hygiene

  • Learned coping skills: butterfly hug, calm place, container, protection team

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