In the past two blogs, we have discussed the many ways EMDR can help individuals overcome trauma and PTSD. EMDR is a very well-researched form of trauma therapy that helps individuals who feel “stuck” move forward from trauma. It can be used in a variety of clinical settings by clients of all ages. However, it is especially useful when working with teens. Today, I want to share some signs your teen may have experienced trauma and common symptoms of PTSD. Then, I will share how EMDR can help reduce the emotional distress caused by these symptoms.
What is Trauma?
Trauma is the result of being exposed to a life-threatening or emotionally charged event. When teens experience trauma, it can dramatically change their life as it challenges their sense of safety and security. As a result, they may experience a variety of psychological, physical, end emotional distress. There are many different types of traumatic events.
Some examples of trauma include:
- Physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, or psychological abuse
- Community violence
- Natural disasters
- A health crisis or medical disaster including anaphylaxis
- Loss of a loved one
How Teens React to Trauma
Remember, the teenage years are a time when a young person is trying to assert their independence. They want to prove they are capable of handling adult things. Unfortunately, this means they may not disclose some or any of the details of what happened. Even with their friends, family, or parents.
As their parent or caregiver, that can feel extremely frustrating. Perhaps, you know something happened, but you don’t know what was or how it is affecting them. Maybe, your teen has seemed a little off lately. Or maybe, they seemed fine one minute, but then something triggered a major meltdown. You likely feel overwhelmed and scared. You would do anything to help them. But, you have to figure out what’s going on.
Common trauma reactions in teens or symptoms of PTSD include:
- Irritability or extreme mood swings
- Anger and hostility
- Emotional outbursts
- Withdrawal, social isolation, school refusal
- Poor academic permanence or behavioral concerns at school
- Poor concentration or inattention
- Unexplained physical pain, stomachaches, headaches
- Extreme anxiety
- Depression and suicidal thoughts or attempts
- Insomnia and/or nightmares
- Dangerous or risky behavior
- Alcohol or drug use
How EMDR Can Help Teens Who Have Experienced Trauma
If you know or suspect your teen has experienced trauma or a traumatic event, then I encourage you to seek help from a skilled teen therapist who can help them process the event and move forward in a healthy way. EMDR is a powerful way to help teens reprocess what happened so they can find healing.
When a teen experiences trauma, their brain can shut down. This causes them to be unable to process memories of what happened and the memory gets “stuck” in the emotional side of the brain. This causes painful and extreme emotional responses. Without intervention, these memories can haunt a teen for a long time, if not the remainder of their life.
What is EMDR?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. EMDR works to help teens access their “stuck point” or the memory that is causing their distress and helps them reprocess it to be less painful and disruptive in their life. This is done through bilateral stimulation (stimulating both sides of the brain). Bilateral stimulation effectively moves the memory from the emotional part of the brain to the logical side. This allows it to be reprocessed and desensitized.
EMDR is unique because it doesn’t require talking about what happened. This can be a relief to teens, especially ones who struggle to talk to adults. Additionally, many teens are scared to talk about what happened to them. Teenagers have a heightened attunement to criticism and they fear being judged. Sometimes, this can make it even more difficult to retell the details of an incident. This is because these memories may bring them shame or guilt. With EMDR the focus is not on talking about what happened or telling the story. Instead, the focus of EMDR for teens is on processing the memories.
How EMDR Works
In my last two blogs What is EMDR? and EMDR for Kids, I explained the 8 phases of EMDR in-depth. But as a quick refresher, they are history taking, preparation, assessment, desensitization, installation, body scan, closure, and reevaluation. Right now, I want to talk a little bit about the second step and how it pertains to teens.
The second step is preparation. Preparation is crucial when doing EMDR with teens because it ensures they have the skills needed to handle the memory that is being targeted. So, their therapist will make sure they have tools to use to cope when it’s time to revisit the painful or traumatic event they experienced. One of these tools is the support of a caring therapist. This will help them know that they aren’t alone while making their arduous journey. The emotional center of the brain plays a big role in a teen’s life and development into adulthood. EMDR puts a priority on coping skills you can use outside of therapy to manage strong emotions. During therapy, a teen develops tools not just for reprocessing but also for managing the emotions and challenges of life.
EMDR Can Help Boost Your Teen’s Self-Esteem
One of the goals of EMDR is establishing positive beliefs about oneself. This process can complement the development of positive self-esteem and self-confidence that is so important in adolescence. In phase 3, the therapist and teen choose a negative thought to target. This may be something like “I’m not worthy.” “No one loves me.” “I’m ruined.” Then, after reprocessing the memory and removing its intense emotional hold on your teen, they will find these negative thoughts turn into something more positive. For example, I am not worthy may turn into I am worthy of love and respect. The powerful self-esteem boost will carry over to other aspects of their life empowering them to find happiness and peace.
Interested in EMDR for Teens?
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Begin EMDR Therapy for Teens in New Jersey With a Skilled Trauma Therapist
Brave Minds Psychological Services in Scotch Plains, NJ and Branchburg, NJ helps adults, children, and families with parenting, health anxiety, and more. Let our skilled and caring family therapists provide a safe and comfortable therapy experience right here in New Jersey. To begin therapy, follow these few simple steps:
- Connect with Brave Minds Psychological Services today.
- Get your questions answered in a free phone consultation call with one of our compassionate therapists.
- Help your child move forward with their brave, beautiful life.
Other Therapy Services At Brave Minds Psychological Services
At Brave Minds Psychological Services, we offer a variety of mental health services for children, teens, adults and families. Our licensed therapists are committed to helping you get on the right path to healing and wholeness. Our therapeutic services for children and teens include therapy for children, anxiety treatment for children, child sexual abuse therapy, therapy for teens, anxiety treatment for teens, teen social phobia therapy. We also offer adult mental health services including adult anxiety counseling, couples counseling, counseling for parents, postpartum counseling, birth trauma therapy, and sexual assault counseling for adults. We also have a blog where we write about a variety of different mental health subjects. If you’re interested in learning more about our services here at Brave Minds Psychological Services or online, please contact our Scotch Plains counseling office! Proud to serve Fanwood, Westfield, Cranford, New Providence, and surrounding areas.