Therapy Benefits of EMDR for Teens

Although transformative, the teenage years can bring about positive and negative experiences.

With these significant changes come various, sometimes life-altering, challenges that may lead to symptoms consistent with anxiety, depression, trauma, and stress. These issues are often exacerbated by school-related issues, social pressures, and the pervasive influence of technology on their lives. 

While these experiences are relatively common, teens may struggle to manage their emotions, navigate their relationships, and cope with past traumas, which can profoundly impact their mental and emotional well-being. When this happens, conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorder, or major depressive disorder (MDD) can come into play.

As parents, we understand the impact of a mental health diagnosis on your teen can be alarming. The good news is there are effective treatment options, like EMDR therapy, that can help your teen overcome their struggles and live a more fulfilling life. 

In fact, according to the National Library of Medicine, 60% of teens who undergo EMDR therapy no longer meet the criteria for an MDD diagnosis after just six sessions. 

If your teen is struggling with a mental health condition, EMDR may be the answer. Continue reading to learn more about this innovative therapy option. 

Understanding the Basics of EMDR Therapy

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a psychotherapy approach recognized as an effective treatment for substance use and mental health disorders. 

EMDR involves an eight-phase process where a specialized therapist helps your teen process distressing memories, trauma, and negative experiences. 

EMDR treatment uses bilateral stimulation through eye movements to facilitate the brain’s natural ability to process and heal from emotional wounds. 

It is based on the idea that traumatic memories can become “stuck” in the brain, leading to emotional distress. This process allows the teen to desensitize the distress and reframe it in a healthier way, reducing its emotional impact.

Why Do Teens Need EMDR Therapy?

Teenagers are dealing with a lot of things regularly. From academic goals to extracurricular requirements and peer pressure to the grip that social media and technology can have on their lives, this critical stage in their development is filled with emotions. 

EMDR therapy is valuable because it offers a structured and evidence-based approach to addressing various emotional and psychological challenges. It helps teens process and manage their emotions, heal from past traumas, and build the emotional resilience necessary to thrive throughout adolescence and adulthood.

EMDR Benefits for Teens

While the primary goal of EMDR is to help teens reprocess their emotional turmoil, turning past traumas into healed scars, other benefits include

  • Reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Easing the effects of past trauma
  • Improving self-esteem and self-awareness
  • Enhancing coping mechanisms for stress

The EMDR Process

A typical EMDR therapy session consists of eight phases conducted by a licensed therapist in a controlled and supportive environment. 

Because EMDR is a structured and evidence-based therapy, yielding positive results requires time and patience. Results are not instant but rather gradual over your sessions.

The eight steps include

  1. Treatment Planning and Medical History Review
    The first step is gathering information about your teen’s medical history, including their presenting mental health conditions, past traumas, and current emotional state.
    During this step, treatment goals are set.
  2. EMDR Introduction
    During step two, a therapist will review the entire EMDR process with your teen and set expectations. Coping strategies and relaxation techniques are introduced to help the teen manage their emotions during treatment. 
  3. Target Selection
    The therapist guides your teen to identify a specific traumatic memory or current distressing target to work on during the initial sessions. Your teen is asked to rate the level of distress associated with this memory on a specific scale. 
  4. Desensitization
    During this phase, your teen focuses on the identified issue while engaging in bilateral stimulation. This is achieved by following the therapist’s fingers with their eyes as they move back and forth. The goal is to reduce the emotional charge and promote desensitization.
  5. Installation
    Positive beliefs and self-affirmations are introduced to replace negative beliefs or self-perceptions associated with the specific traumatic event. 
  6. Body Scan
    After the bilateral stimulation, a therapist helps your teen take heed of and address any physical sensations or tension related to the memory. Relaxation techniques may be used to reduce physical discomfort throughout the session. 
  7. Session Closure
    Toward the end of the session, the therapist helps your teen return to emotional stability. Coping strategies are reinforced, and your teen is provided with self-soothing techniques when not in EMDR therapy sessions.
  8. Reevaluation
    In subsequent sessions, progress will be assessed by revisiting the initial traumatic memory. 

It is critical to work with a licensed therapist in a controlled environment. This is the only way to ensure the session is conducted safely, effectively, and ethically. 

Over time, significant mental and emotional shifts will take place, allowing your teen to feel more balanced and healed. 

EMDR and Other Therapies

EMDR therapy can complement other therapeutic approaches, such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), in a whole-body comprehensive treatment plan. 

In conjunction with other therapeutic modalities, EMDR can help with

  • Trauma Processing
  • Anxiety and Stress
  • Depression
  • Self-Esteem Issues
  • Relationships
  • Emotional Regulation
  • Academic Performance

By incorporating EMDR therapy into a comprehensive treatment plan that includes other therapeutic modalities, like CBT, individuals may experience a more well-rounded and practical approach to managing mental health. The combination of therapies can address the underlying trauma and emotional wounds and the cognitive and behavioral aspects of their struggles, leading to better long-term outcomes.

Frequently Asked Questions About EMDR

Are you interested in learning more about the effectiveness of EMDR for your teen? Read through some of the most frequently asked questions below. 

Is EMDR therapy safe for teenagers?

Yes, EMDR therapy is generally considered safe for teenagers when conducted by a trained and licensed therapist who specializes in this treatment. 

How does EMDR therapy work for teens?

EMDR therapy helps teens process traumatic memories and negative emotions by using bilateral stimulation to reframe their perception and heal emotional wounds that may be tied to other mental health conditions like anxiety or depression.

What qualifications does an EMDR therapist need to have?

An EMDR therapist should be licensed and have completed specific training on performing EMDR therapy.

How to support your teen during EMDR therapy?

The best way to support your teen through EMDR therapy is to be understanding and patient, listen without judgment, and provide a safe and understanding environment that fosters healing.

Some of the most effective ways to support your child include

  • Foster open communication
  • Educate yourself on their experiences and understand what’s involved in therapy 
  • Respect their privacy
  • Offer encouragement
  • Validate their feelings
  • Encourage the implementation of coping strategies learned in therapy
  • Allow space for emotional processing by respecting their boundaries
  • Promote healthy habits at home
  • Communicate with their therapist about any concerns you may have
  • Consider family therapy
  • Attend EMDR alongside your teen

Effective EMDR Therapy for Your Teen at Muir Wood

If your teen is struggling to heal from a traumatic event, a diagnosed mental health disorder, or both, we are here to help with a personalized treatment plan that meets them where they are.

Therapies like EMDR can help your teen effectively process trauma and emotional turmoil in a healthy and measurable way. To learn more about EMDR or to get your teen the help they need now, contact us today.