Specialized, compassion-focused treatment for the effects of trauma in children and teens.
Trauma can make them feel as if they’re stuck in a dark place with no clear way out. They might feel anxious, scared, and struggle with everyday tasks.
The emotional toll isn’t just theirs to bear—it affects you, too.
Every child should feel safe in their environment. When that ideal is shattered by an unexpected situation or event, it can have a profound and lasting effect on them.
Whether it’s physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, these deeply wounding experiences can shatter a child’s belief in a safe world. They might feel betrayed or that every adult and place is a potential threat. It can leave scars on their self-esteem and relationships that need time and gentle care to heal.
Imagine a movie replaying in your head—a horror film that no child should ever see. Violence, whether experienced directly or witnessed, can have long-lasting, negative impacts on a child’s mental and emotional health. These experiences can lead to fears and anxieties that invade their everyday lives, causing them to feel continuously threatened or anxious.
Think of a sudden, loud noise that startles you; now imagine that feeling doesn’t fully go away. Accidents or severe illnesses can be traumatic, especially when they’re sudden, painful, or frightening. These events can instill intense fear and anxiety around places or activities that remind them of the incident. The world may suddenly seem unpredictable, making them overly cautious and anxious about their safety.
After an upsetting or overwhelming experience, the memory of what happened can stay stuck or unprocessed in the mind and body. EMDR helps to process distressing emotions, thoughts, beliefs, and body sensations in order achieve healthier coping and well-being.
We have Registered Psychologists who have intensive and specialized training in EMDR protocols for children and teens, integrating play, art, story telling and games into the EMDR process so that it matches children’s developmental level and collaboratively engages them in this step-by-step therapy model.
Explaining EMDR to children:
When scary and upsetting things happen to us, we can get mixed up thoughts and feelings that take up space and leave no room for our good thoughts and feelings. This can make us feel uncomfortable and unsafe in our bodies too. We can think of our mind, our heart, and our body as our 3 “storytellers” who talk to us in different ways: Our Thinking Mind tells our story through thoughts, beliefs, and pictures in our head. Our Heart tells our story through feelings such as worry, sadness, and anger. Our Body tells our story through sensations such as a racing heart, buzzy arms, a tight chest, or butterflies in our tummy. We use play, art, and stories while using bilateral stimulation in fun ways like marching, drumming, or tapping (aka butterfly hug). The back and forth movement helps our mind and heart sort out and unstick all of the yucky thoughts and feelings and then helps us to experience good thoughts and feelings again. This makes our body feel more safe and calm too.
Explaining EMDR to teens:
Our brain is like an information center that works to sort out and make sense of all the events we experience every day. Our brain does this by going through our events from the right side (our feelings brain) to the left side (our logical brain). Our brain does this too while we’re sleeping to help process any stressful stuff that happened in the day. However, when we have really upsetting things happen, it can cause our brain to get too overwhelmed and then we get “stuck” in hard feelings, negative thoughts and body reactions. EMDR uses left-right movements (like tapping our hands or knees, or moving our eyes from side to side) to help sort out these upsetting events so that they no longer have negative thoughts and feelings attached to them. This gives room for more positive thoughts and feelings and helps our body feel calm and safe again.
Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) is like a super-charged movie editing session for your mind. During ART, you work with a therapist to reimagine distressing experiences, kind of like rerunning a movie in your head. But this time, we can help your child change the scary parts, making them less intense. It’s a rapid and safe technique that can help them process traumatic memories and reduce distressing physical and emotional reactions.
It usually takes only a few sessions to start feeling better.
Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (TF-CBT) is a structured, short-term therapeutic approach designed specifically for children and adolescents who have experienced trauma. This therapy method teaches children and their caregivers to understand and manage the thoughts, emotions, and behaviours that come from traumatic experiences. Through TF-CBT, children learn skills to help them process the trauma, manage distressing thoughts and feelings, and promote healthier behaviours. The therapy also involves the caregivers, equipping them with strategies to support their child effectively during the healing process.
Synergetic Play Therapy is a child-centered approach that is informed by research on stress responses and recovery in the nervous system, interpersonal neurobiology, attachment, and mindfulness. When children are struggling with emotions and behaviour, their body’s stress response system can go into overdrive or shut down in a collapse state. Through working in the metaphor of play and in attunement with their psychologist, children have the opportunity to express and co-regulate uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, and body sensations that they would not have been able to move towards as easily on their own.
Art therapy is effective for some children and teens who might find it easier to express complex feelings through art rather than words. In art therapy, the artwork becomes a medium for communication, allowing them to illustrate and explore their thoughts and feelings. This process can help them gain self-awareness, cope with stress, and boost self-esteem.
Sand tray therapy is a hands-on and creative approach to therapy where children and teens use a variety of miniature figures and objects in a sand tray and create scenes that reflect aspects of their inner and outer world. The sand tray may be used in directive and non-directive ways to help increase children’s expression of their thoughts, feelings, and memories. This approach is particularly helpful for children and teens who may have a hard time verbalizing past and present struggles.
Somatic experiencing is a therapy approach that focuses on the body’s natural ability to heal from trauma. It’s all about tuning into our physical responses, like tension or sensations, that are often linked with traumatic experiences. It’s a gentle, body-focused approach that can be very effective in supporting recovery from traumatic events.
We believe therapy is part of living a healthy life; you don’t have to be in crisis or facing an emergency to seek support. Our practice is built on long-term connections, and we walk with you as you navigate the different phases and challenges in your life.
While working with children and adolescents is what we’re best known for, we extend our specialized assessment and therapeutic support services to parents, adults, and couples who are on their own path to healing and living a life they love.
We listen to understand your child’s story, concerns, and goals and determine if therapy is right for them.
We use an integrated approach to building a personalized plan, taking a strength and evidence-based approach to therapy.
We assess what’s working and track the progress being made so we can keep working towards their goals.
While your child won’t necessarily forget the details of the traumatic event(s) after therapy, their relationship to these memories will shift significantly. Trauma therapy aims to help your child process their experiences in a way that reduces the emotional intensity associated with these memories. This means they can recall the event without experiencing the same level of distress, anxiety, or physical reactions that they may have initially felt. The end goal is not about erasing memories but rather fostering adaptive beliefs and thoughts that enable them to live with their past without it impeding their present or future.
Trauma therapy is designed to address a wide range of symptoms and difficulties arising from traumatic experiences. This includes persistent feelings of fear and anxiety, intrusive thoughts or flashbacks, emotional volatility, difficulties with self-esteem, and trouble with relationships and trust. It can also help with specific manifestations of trauma, such as phobias, depression, panic attacks, nightmares, and issues stemming from grief, loss, or family separation. The therapy is tailored to the individual, focusing on their unique experiences and responses to help them regain control over their lives.
Absolutely. Our trauma therapy protocols are rooted in evidence-based practices that have been demonstrated to help children, teens, and adults navigate the impacts of distressing events in their lives. The aim is to guide the healing process, helping the individual process their experiences in a way that reduces their emotional distress and improves their overall functioning. With therapy, children and teens can build resilience and regain a sense of control and safety in their lives.
Trauma therapy with children is tailored to their specific developmental needs and incorporates elements that are engaging and understandable to them. Our trained therapists integrate play, art, storytelling, and games into therapy sessions, as these can be more accessible and less threatening ways for children to express their feelings and experiences. This creative and interactive approach enables children as young as three years old to actively participate in their healing process. We work closely with parents and caregivers, involving them in the therapy process to provide consistent support and understanding for the child across all aspects of their life.
Results depend on your child’s or teen’s presenting concerns. Although children tend to process distressing events faster than adults do, time is spent building rapport and helping “resource” your child or teen (i.e., building up adaptive strategies to help the nervous system feel safe and calm). You can expect to commit to at least 6–8 therapy sessions for your child or teens. Those with complex trauma will benefit from ongoing therapeutic support.
If you’re looking to get started with J. Gordon Psychology Group, get in touch! You can email, call or submit a message using our contact form.
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