An Angry Preschooler calms thru EMDR Therapy

EMDR Therapy Calms an Angry Preschooler

by Bonnie Hendrickson, LMHC

Note:  This story was shared at an EMDRIA Conference in 2012.  Afterwards, many EMDR therapists requested that I write the story down.   Here is the story:

bonnie.hendersonEarly in 2006 I received a new referral of a preschooler boy of age 3.  His problem:  when he entered the playroom of his daycare, he often became violent….clearing the cupboards of toys with a sweep of his arm, picking up toys and throwing them at children.  Or he might kick, punch, pinch or spit at the other children.

He was in a foster/adopt home, and the adoption process was underway. His adoptive mother brought him to my office, hoping I could help him overcome his violent tendencies.

I asked his adoptive mother to hold him while I talked to him to get acquainted.  He began kicking her shins, so I began lightly tapping his ankles (this is one form of EMDR bilateral stimulation).

He slowed his kicking, then jumped down from her lap. He climbed to the back of my office sofa and jumped on the back of the sofa. I asked him if he was feeling like he was two.  He shook his head. No.

I followed him and continued tapping as he would let me.  I tapped his ankles as soon as his feet landed after a jump. He then jumped from the sofa and sat on the floor behind his mother’s chair.  I followed him there and tapped on his hands.  Then he laid down under his mothers’s chair.

I had a hunch and asked, “Are you feeling like you are still in your mama’s tummy?  He nodded and and became stiff as a board.  I tapped his shoulders, as they were easiest to reach by now.  Then I took my hands away to take a break from the tapping.  He reached up and put my hands back on his shoulders.  I tapped for almost a minute more.  He relaxed, got out from under the chair and went to the toy cupboard.  He picked out 2 toys and brought them to me, saying, “Let’s play.”

His adoptive mother was shocked.  “I’ve never seen him behave this way.  I’m surprised at his calm demeanor.”

In checking back with her a week later, she reported he is a different child than before, and has continued behaving calmly.

That is my story – it was exciting to watch the changes in this little pre-schooler in just one sesson!

Editor’s Note:  This story exemplifies how quickly children can shift with EMDR, though not all will make progress this quickly.  Bonnie is a very attuned and intuitive, experienced EMDR therapist to help this child so quickly.  She made it look easy, but was ready to shift to other strategies if the preschooler became more disturbed.

For a video on this website about “How EMDR Therapy Works for Kids”

please link to the top row of our VIDEO page


Bonnie Hendrikson is located in Friday Harbor WA 98250.  She is a child therapist and adolescent or teen counselor trained as a Certified EMDR therapist.