Short answer: yes, EMDR works with telehealth. Online EMDR follows the same stages and protocols as in person EMDR. However, there are some special considerations that need to be in place. First, you need to be able to access the special technology that allows you to do the eye movements or follow the bilateral stimulation. Second, you need a secure, reliable connection to minimize the risk of disruptions from technological causes. Finally, you and your therapist will have to do more preparatory work on the front end to make sure you can stay safe and regulate yourself in case you have a strong negative reaction to trauma work.
Only about 53% of EMDR therapists use telehealth, so finding an EMDR therapist online can be difficult. While virtual therapy is just as effective as in person therapy, there are special concerns that need to be addressed when you’re doing therapy to address trauma. Trauma therapy can be very difficult emotionally and even physically if you tend to dissociate or have strong reactions to the subject matter.
Technology Needed for Online EMDR
- A large screen so the eye movements can take up as much of your field of vision as possible
- Headphones capable of stereo sound so you can have auditory bilateral stimulation
- Secure, reliable internet to ensure you stay connected to your provider
Online EMDR is more reliant on technology than in person EMDR. In person, your therapist could guide you through the eye movements using a hand or a pointer. You could use provided headphones if you were using sound, and many therapists had hand held buzzers to provide a tactile experience.
With online EMDR, your therapist will likely use one of the many online programs or softwares that allow for eye movements with or without bilateral sounds. You may need to use a certain browser to open the link for best results. You will need enough familiarity with your computer so you can troubleshoot any problems that come up with your therapist.
If you have been using a phone or tablet for meetings and working from home, your screen may not be large enough to give you a full range of eye movement. You may need to switch to a laptop or desktop with a large monitor for best results. As an alternative, you can find two objects in your field of vision that are far enough apart for you to do eye movements on your own. This is not ideal as it may be more difficult for you to focus on reprocessing, but it can work if there is no other alternative. Many cheaper headphones and earbuds are not capable of stereo input. You may need to purchase stereo headphones or earbuds to get the most out of your online EMDR.
Managing Crisis During Online EMDR
Working online, you should be in a private space for your therapy session. However, this means you are also alone in case you have a strong negative reaction to a particular memory. It’s extra important with online EMDR to spend plenty of time on the first stages of EMDR. These initial stages are meant to help you explore possible negative reactions, build up your tolerance, and increase your skills to manage crisis on your own. Your therapist may ask for an additional emergency contact who could help you quickly during your usual session time.
You and your therapist should have a safety plan in place if your trauma reactions are severe. This may include planning in advance for how you and your therapist will handle different scenarios. You’ll decide who you want your therapist to call for help and who you don’t want to be involved.
Online EMDR is Helpful and Effective
Online EMDR can help you reprocess painful memories, heal trauma, and help you get back to living a full life. If you’re ready to learn more about how EMDR can transform your life, contact me to schedule a free 15 minute consultation. Want to know more about how EMDR works? Read about it here.