Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing and play therapy


Children heal through play; it is their work. With posttraumatic stress, however, a child can be so shutdown and isolated within himself or herself that even the safe, welcoming environment of the play therapy room is not enough to unlock her chains. Such a child has lived in an atmosphere of threat, fear, uncertainty, and self protection, often not knowing what will trigger the next emotional or physical attack. Such an environment creates a fear of self-expression. These behaviors and feelings have been documented by many who have researched posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children. The something more that is needed is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. Through the combination of nondirective and directive play therapy with EMDR, an evidence-based therapeutic protocol, traumatized children can process their type 1 and type 2 traumas and regain their freedom and new views on self and life, EMDR therapy includes the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model, memories, the neurological processes, and a distinct eight-phase integrative treatment approach using bilateral stimulation (BLS). Dysfunctional stored memories of events contain emotions, physical sensations, and belief that can become intrusive and result in hyperarousal and avoidant behaviors. They are stored as implicit rather than explicit memories. EMDR therapy facilitates reprocessing the implicit to become explicit and useful. The therapy uses integration of mind, heart, and body at its core. For a child, we can talk about processing memories like eating food. We chew up pieces and gradually swallow and absorb it into our bodies so that the good becomes useful to us.


Book Section




Karen Sullivan
Gael Thompson, Gael

Original Work Citation

Sullivan, K., & Thompson, G. (2017). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing and play therapy. In Elsa Soto Legget and Jennifer N. Boswell (Eds.), Directive play therapy: Theories and techniques (pp. 81-104). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Co.



“Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing and play therapy,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed October 26, 2020, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/24560.

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