The Benefits of EMDR in PANDAS PANSMay 03, 2021
Have you heard of EMDR as a therapy option for your PANS child or teen? Or you may be wondering what in the world is EMDR and how can it help those with PANS? Either way, this post is for you.
What is EMDR?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. In a nutshell, EMDR helps to reduce disturbing thoughts, feelings or images.
EMDR uses "bilateral stimulation". Bilateral stimulation can be in the form of right to left eye movements, sound that alternates from left ear to right ear, or touch that alternates from right side to left side.
When reprocessing disturbing material, bilateral stimulation is paired with specific steps of talking about the disturbing memories or thoughts, including intrusive thoughts, OCD thoughts and anxiety thoughts. Over time, participants report a reduction or complete absence of disturbance to the upsetting material.
Who can benefit from EMDR?
EMDR was originally used for PTSD, but it has also been shown to be helpful for anxiety, depression, OCD and phobias.
Currently, there seems to be only one published study on using EMDR with PANS kids. You can read it here. In this study, you'll find that an 11 year old PANDAS patient showed a reduction in tics and OCD behaviors after eight EMDR therapy sessions combined with parent management training.
EMDR as a Therapy Option for PANS Children
Since there has been little published research on using EMDR with PANS children, I consider many factors before beginning EMDR therapy with a client. First, I make sure I have clearance with their treating doctor, and second, I work with a PANS child or teen on the "stabilization and resourcing" aspect of EMDR until they are very well stabilized.
During stabilization and resourcing, I teach the PANS child how to create a "safe place" to "go to" when they feel stressed or overwhelmed, and how to create a "container" such as a jar or box to put the disturbing thoughts or feelings into. When we pair their "safe place" with bilateral stimulation, PANS kids can increase a "felt sense of safety" with their safe place.
I find a lot of the PANS kids do best with audio bilateral stimulation when on telehealth sessions or with tactile buzzers for bilateral touch stimulation in the office. In my experience, I have found EMDR to be an excellent tool to have available for PANS kids and teens.
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