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Is EMDR Effective In Treating Teens?



Adolescence is an incredibly challenging time in a young person’s life, which is typically filled with immense physiological growth, surging hormones, and a newfound desire for autonomy. It is important to note that although teenagers are faced with an abundance of difficult lessons throughout adolescence, their brains are not fully developed. Although adolescents may appear physically mature, the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain that is involved with impulse control, organizational planning, and decision making) does not fully develop until age twenty-five; meaning teens instinctively react emotionally to external stimuli, as they must rely on their amygdala (the area of the brain that is involved in processing emotions, memories, and motivation). Having to rely on outdated coping mechanisms to navigate the trials and tribulations of adolescence can be highly ineffective. Further, adolescence also happens to be the time period that many mental health ailments begin to surface. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy utilizes a bilateral eye movement treatment method to strengthen a young person’s balance between the two hemispheres of his or her brain. 

What Is EMDR?

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy works by changing certain unhealthy coping mechanisms that have been developed to help a young person cope with a traumatic event or events. When a traumatic experience occurs it is highly common for the negative memory to get stuck in the right hemisphere and for a young person to perseverate on it without properly processing the experience. With EMDR therapy, a teen’s brain is taught to process the negative experience, while simultaneously implementing a positive self-belief, utilizing both hemispheres of his or her brain through the bilateral eye movement method. 

Who Can It Help?

EMDR is a type of psychotherapy that can help treat young people recover from isolated or repeated exposures to trauma, as well as other mental health illnesses, including anxiety, depression, panic disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and more. Instead of spending time revisiting the memory of past trauma, EMDR emphasizes shifting the emotions, behaviors, and/ or thoughts surrounding the trauma to enable the brain to heal itself. EMDR therapy often requires fewer sessions than other psychotherapies. Not all psychotherapy methods resonate with every person, which is why there are a variety of therapeutic modalities used in mental health treatments. EMDR has been effective in treating teens, but every teen is different, and will require a somewhat tailored treatment plan to cater to his or her unique needs (including or excluding EMDR). For some teens, integrating EMDR may behoove the recovery process, and for others it may be less effective. 

For Information and Support 

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at

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