Play therapy and EMDR


Children vary greatly in their ability to tolerate focusing on “the problem.” The wise EMDR therapist has various ways of approaching a traumatic memory or a current day problem to fit the tolerance level of the client. EMDR and the process of bilateral stimulation to address problematic material is one method of speeding up therapeutic work with children. However, when using bilateral stimulation with children I am simultaneously using my training as a family systems therapist, and the various play therapy strategies that were the backbone of my work with children before I learned EMDR or other alternative therapies. In a way, EMDR and the sand tray saved my professional life. In my first year of practice after my family therapy post-graduate training, I got a job at a family therapy clinic in Louisville, Kentucky. I was assigned to handle all referrals that came to the agency through a Victim Assistance grant. All of these were cases in which a child had been victim of some crime, and the majority were victims of abuse from some one other than a family member. You can imagine the population. Families who had found that a neighbor or teacher had abused their child were common. Both child and family were traumatized. My family therapy skills were good. But in addition to them I needed two things: a better way for children to communicate their feelings and a way to help both adults and children reduce the intensity of emotions around the trauma they had been through. Just (Continued from page 1) when I was beginning to feel that I was not up to the job, I learned EMDR. With this wonderful knowledge, I found I could help both children and adults move beyond the trauma and regain their grasp on the present moment, their strengths and their security. A deepening understanding of play therapy provided the additional communication tools I needed. Since Then I have never looked back, and find that our field is continually generating new perspectives and more efficient tools for us to use.






Judith Daniel

Original Work Citation

Daniel, J. (2000). Play therapy and EMDR. The Children's Group Association Newsletter. Retrieved from November 16, 2011



“Play therapy and EMDR,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed February 25, 2021,

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