Trauma Therapy: Can We Do EMDR Online?
Updated: Apr 16, 2021
More people are trying EMDR online for trauma. Can it work for you?
Many people wonder about virtual therapy. How does it work? Will it feel strange or uncomfortable? And, can unique therapies such as EMDR be done online? Here’s a look at how online trauma therapy is practiced, how EMDR works, and how the two go together.
How Does Online Therapy Work?
There are many different models that are described as online therapy, virtual therapy, or telehealth. These can differ somewhat. For example, some services are text based. Some include live chat, while others are essentially back and forth messaging, similar to e-mail.
However, more traditional therapists have been using a standard model for years. This method is very similar to in-office sessions. It’s delivered in real-time, via a private video platform (similar to Zoom), or by phone. Just like with an in-office appointment, you meet your therapist at a specific time, and talk directly to each other.
What happens within those sessions can be as varied as in any therapist’s office. Counselors offer family, individual, couples sessions, and more. Specifically, therapists have been treating PTSD online for years.
Following the onset of Covid-19, thousands more therapists started offering online appointments. It’s now become a norm in the therapy world, and is used to treat trauma, anxiety, depression, and more.
Is Online Trauma Therapy Effective?
Even prior to the pandemic, many people attended therapy via phone or video chat. Multiple studies have shown it to be appropriate and effective, for a variety of conditions.
Studies have looked specifically at virtual therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Results of in-person versus distance therapy were similar, and both types offered long term benefits.
What is EMDR?
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR), is one of the therapies now practiced often online. But before we get into that, let’s review just what EMDR is.
EMDR is a unique form of therapy that involves activation of both sides of your brain. This is called bilateral stimulation. As your brain is awakened, your counselor will guide you in noticing and better understanding events you’ve experienced. This will help you make sense of these memories, and make peace with them.
EMDR is best known for helping with trauma, and conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, it’s also used with complex trauma (often childhood memories), depression, anxiety, and more. It’s now one of the most popular and requested therapies in the U.S.
EMDR Going Online
So, if online therapy works, and EMDR is effective, how do the two work together? EMDR is unique as compared to other common therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. EMDR includes that specific element of brain stimulation.
Traditionally, EMDR therapists have used blinking lights during in-person sessions. These lights would facilitate eye movement, which provided the bilateral stimulation. It’s understandable that this may be a bit more complicated via video chat, and wouldn’t work at all via phone.
Many therapists still use these lights, but others use different methods (even during in-person sessions). A common alternative is the “butterfly hug” method, which involves tapping both sides of your own body. Other therapists might have a client watch their fingers move back and forth, or use tapping methods.
These strategies have already been used to provide online therapy for years, and have been shown to be effective. More studies are needed, but early research has shown that EMDR is specifically effective via virtual formats.
Anecdotally, many clients report the same benefits as those who’ve completed in-person EMDR. With the mass movement towards online therapy, more research will likely be available in the near future.
Is Online EMDR Right for You?
Many people are understandably hesitant about therapy in general, and specifically about virtual sessions. Most clients who have misgivings report that they feel much more comfortable after starting sessions. Once the initial adjustment wears off, most people report it’s not much different than in-person therapy.
Online sessions are safe, effective, and private. In addition to the mental health benefits, they can also offer flexibility when it comes to scheduling and commuting. If you’re looking for a proven, effective approach, we’re here to help. Learn more about EMDR and scheduling a virtual session.
How We Can Help
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Other Therapy Services Available at Catalyss Counseling:
Here at Catalyss Counseling, we want to meet all of your counseling needs in the Denver area. Our supportive therapists provide depression counseling, therapy for caregiver stress, grief and loss therapy, stress management counseling and more. We also have specialists in trauma and PTSD, women's issues, pregnancy and postpartum depression or anxiety, pregnancy loss and miscarriage, and birth trauma. For therapists, we can also provide clinical supervision! We look forward to connecting with you to help support your journey today.
Author: Catalyss Counseling