The History of Online EMDR therapy
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was much discussion in the EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) community about whether or not EMDR therapy could effectively be done online. There were concerns from clinicians about their clients having intense emotional reactions or dissociation and not being present to help their clients calm down. The EMDR International Association (EMDRIA) was in the process of developing guidelines for virtual EMDR, which of course, was pushed to the forefront in the beginning of 2020.
Almost overnight, all EMDR therapists were seeing their clients online. Many clinicians who had been hesitant or scared to try EMDR virtually were thrust into a dilemma: Do I provide a technique I know that works for clients in distress or do I prolong their suffering indefinitely until we can be back with them in the office? For me, this decision was less of a dilemma. Due to moving therapy offices in 2019, my appointments were already about thirty percent virtual. I had even tried EMDR with a couple higher functioning clients, and they managed the therapy well.
Can EMDR therapy be done online?
The short answer is a resounding yes. There are many ways to achieve this, but a well trained EMDR therapist who has experience providing EMDR therapy online will tell you that the technique works just as well online as in person. There are three levels of training in EMDR. Therapists can either be trained, certified, or a consultant. Certified EMDR therapists have completed further training and consultation hours after their initial two weekends of training. Consultants have received additional training and supervision in their consultation of other EMDR therapists.
How do you do EMDR therapy online?
EMDR requires what is often referred to as bilateral stimulation (BLS) or dual attention stimulation (DAS). These terms are often used interchangeably in EMDR literature. Most people see BLS/DAS being administered by eye movements. This is how EMDR is usually depicted in TV or movies. However, the same BLS/DAS can be achieved by the client tapping themselves on their shoulders or knees, following the therapist’s fingers, or using computerized software in which a client looks back and forth. Eye movements need to be utilized with someone on a computer rather than a phone as the phone doesn’t provide enough width.
What if I become overwhelmed during online EMDR therapy?
Whether EMDR is administered in person or online, it’s important to let your therapist know when things feel like they are getting too much. Having a good relationship with your therapist and proper preparation for EMDR therapy is the key to successful EMDR treatment.
Carrie Bock, LPC-MHSP of By The Well Counseling is an EMDR Consultant who specializes in helping clients with trauma, anxiety and OCD get to a deeper level of healing through EMDR via online counseling across Tennessee and in person intensive therapy sessions. Carrie is the host of the Hope for Anxiety and OCD podcast, which is a welcome place for struggling Christians to reduce shame, increase hope, and develop healthier connections with God and others.