EMDR‘s application in the treatment of children with selective mutism


This case concerns a 4,5 year old girl with Selective Mutism. In this particular case. I considered Selective Mutism a symptom of an attachment trauma. Since the trauma wasn't accessible seeing her age and the complexity of the trauma, I used the symptom as a target. I applied EMDR within a phase model: the preparation phase, confrontation phase and integration phase. During these three phases I continuously worked with bilateral stimulation It is my hypothesis that in this case the bilateral stimulation: 1. stimulated and strengthened positive links in the adaptive network. 2 synchronized the activity of both cerebral hemispheres, resulting in a connection between the primary emotions of traumatic experiences and rational insights and language. 3. unblocked the traumatic information and reactivated the natural healing process of the brain. I used several forms of bilateral stimulation as visual stimulation, tactile stimulation and the butterfly hug. Because of her lack of words, she wasn't able to tell me anything. So through storytelling I offered her different themes to which she could respond by making drawings, figures in clay, etc. During the preparation phase, I focused on safety, ego strengthening and affect management to reduce the fear to speak. 1. Working with safety : the eye movements were first accomplished using a safe Image which brought up her own sense of security. Then, after imagining this safe place, the child was willing to play tapping games to strengthen feelings of safety. 2. Ego strengthening : to feel as strong as possible by installing resources and positive cognitions, and guiding the child towards acceptance and development of its unique being. Bilateral stimulation was used to strengthen the positive experiences. 3. Affect management: in the process of strengthening affect management, the child was given access to her anxiety by storytelling linked to visualization, the use of images and bodywork. Again, bilateral stimulation was used to strengthen the positive experiences/skills. After a few sessions. I introduced the use of language and stimulated her to make sounds, followed by pronouncing places of words and finally the pronunciation of complete words and sentences. Through this whole process, 1 combined the specific exercises to learn how to speak with bilateral stimulations. During the twelfth session, the child started talking spontaneously Given the fact that there wasn't any direct confrontation work during the sessions, we are left to wonder whether there has or hasn't occurred any trauma processing. The symptom came to a halt, together with the disappearance of other symptoms that were Inked to the trauma. The question is whether it is necessary to confront young children with their trauma in order to heal. Nevertheless, it seems like the combination of bilateral stimulation with storytelling, art therapy, play therapy and visualization speeded up the elimination of the child's trauma symptoms considerably.






Doris D'Hooghe

Original Work Citation

D'Hooghe, D. (2010, June). EMDR?s application in the treatment of children with selective mutism. In Experimental use of EMDR. Symposium presented at the 11th EMDR Europe Association Conference, Hamburg, Germany



“EMDR‘s application in the treatment of children with selective mutism,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed June 24, 2021, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/19884.

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