All traumatic experiences pose challenges, but repeated developmental trauma poses a profound and prolonged impact on a young person's their capacity to maintain healthy attachments and their ability to regulate themselves.
Having worked with adopted young people extensively, I understand that trust and motivation are the basis of any successful intervention. In sessions, instead of using eye movements, I invite young people to engage in creative bi-lateral movements, like boxing, drumming, drawing, listening to music with headphones, while processing. Our sessions are never dry or boring!
Why does it take longer for young people who have experienced developmental trauma to complete EMDR processing?
Young people who have experienced developmental trauma often need more time and reassurance as they develop trust towards another adult. In addition, they may not always remember or be able to articulate exactly what happened due to the limit in their cognitive ability when they were exposed to abuse and there are usually multiple traumatic events throughout their childhood. In these cases, I will invite the young person to begin with focusing on an image or even a feeling that represents their difficult past, and it tends to take longer to identify and clear all possible triggers. After processing the distressing memories and the emotions associated with them, the young person will require time to make sense of the new insights that came to surface. So much of our past is ingrained in our personal identity. It is important for young people to continue to have the therapeutic space to explore what healthy relationships mean to them.
Do I have to talk about my difficult memories?
One of the beauties of EMDR is that you don't necessarily have to verbally share your difficult memories with your therapist. If you do not wish to talk about the traumatic experience in the past, I may ask for your permission to begin with the 'Flash Technique' where we support you to process your memories subconsciously only by bringing it into your mind briefly. Alternatively, we can use the 'Blind Therapist' protocol, where I would encourage you to bring the images that represent the difficult memory in mind and guide you to process it by only asking if the image is shifting in your mind without asking for any details.
I love that we begin and finish sessions with music and drawing. It eases me into dealing with the difficult memories and restore my calmness at the end of session.