Open Access EMDR as an Integrative Therapeutic Approach for the Treatment of Separation Anxiety Disorder

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This case study reports the use of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and family therapy for a 10-year-old boy with severe separation anxiety disorder (SAD). It illustrates how the use of the standard EMDR protocol for the boy and his mother combined with family therapy, led to symptom alleviation and restored appropriate developmental functioning as evidenced by behavioral outcomes. The participant initially presented with severe anxiety about separating from his mother, several years after his parents went through a painful divorce. Treatment focused on processing the boy's disturbing memories of past nontraumatic events in 14 EMDR sessions; his mother received 4 EMDR sessions to address her perceived marital failure and guilt about the effects of her ensuing depression on him. Eight family therapy sessions were used to help the family spend positive time together. Prior to treatment, the child had been unable to play outside, checked on his mother frequently, and could not attend activities without her. At the end of treatment, he was able to play with friends outside, ride his bike around town, engage in after school activities, and sleep over at his friends' houses. Gains were maintained at 6-month follow-up. Treatment did not include instruction in parenting skills or psychoeducation for the mother, or any exposure therapy for the child.
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  • The Journal of EMDR Practice and Research is a quarterly, peer-reviewed publication devoted to integrative, state-of-the-art papers about Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a broadly conceived interdisciplinary journal that stimulates and communicates research and theory about EMDR, and their application to clinical practice.
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