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Too Young to Remember? Understanding Implicit Memory

Have you ever heard someone say “Oh, don’t worry, they're too young, they won’t remember”? I’m guessing at some point during your life you have heard someone say this, or maybe you've said or thought this yourself. Well, you can now hang up this saying and place it with the other old wives’ tales that we have been told. We live in a time where technological advances are giving us a plethora of information that we once did not have access to. The world of neuroscience has been changing in conjunction with this new knowledge and we now have new, updated information about the memories that occur before age 2, or those memories that you or your child "does not remember." I would like introduce you to implicit memory. Implicit memory is a type of long-term memory that does not require conscious thought. Typically, the first 18 months of life are implicit and it begins during the gestation process (in the womb). This means there is no language for this memory, instead it is stored in the body. Research continues to show that even though there is not a conscious memory of what is going on, the first two years of life play a pivotal role in brain development. So, what does this mean? It means that even though we may be “too young to remember”, our bodies are able to store important information. As humans, we are biologically created to survive and anything that impedes this will be stored in our brain and bodies to keep us safe from harm. An example is prenatal stress: studies show that a fetus exposed to high levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, often experience cognitive and behavioral challenges once they have reached an age where they are in school. Meaning, something that happened before they were born has the power to affect them later in life. Now, before panic sets in, rest assured that each individual experiences some type of stress or trauma in their life and even though there is not a conscious memory, we are always able to heal our past. Play therapy is an incredible tool when it comes to working with the implicit as play therapy does not require talking. In fact, play therapy, art therapy, somatic therapy, and EMDR are all helpful modalities when it comes to accessing implicit memory. If you'd like to talk to one of our therapists about a challenge your family is facing, please contact us at or 720-638-6270
  • Kelly Miller, LCSW, RPT/S, RYT-200 & Certified Synergetic Play Therapist