EMDR and Telehealth

EMDR and Telehealth

How Therapists Are Using EMDR in Telehealth Sessions

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, commonly referred to by its initials EMDR, is well-known as a model of therapy. This type of therapy was created to treat individuals suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and trauma-related mental illness. Since its invention, it has been proven to help with other disorders and mental illnesses as well such as anxiety, phobias, sleep irregularities, and chronic pain.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health providers have had to adapt EMDR to a telehealth format. A treatment that is traditionally done in person, this modality has required providers to innovate ways to deliver this treatment to patients over video chat. What are therapists doing to effectively adapt EMDR online?

The Pandemic and Telehealth

The coronavirus pandemic prompted mental and behavioral health providers to transition their care delivery to be primarily online. Telehealth has broken down several of the existing barriers to mental health services like travel, transportation, and scheduling. More individuals than ever before have access to mental health care. While this tool has revolutionized the delivery of mental health services, it has posed some challenges as well. Not every kind of treatment is easy to deliver when the client and therapist are separated by a screen.

How EMDR Works

This type of therapy works by mimicking how your brain processes emotions through directed eye movements. It aims to enable someone to reprocess difficult experiences and emotions and transition them out of the fight-flight-freeze-fawn response.

How EMDR Is Being Adapted to Online Therapy

The pandemic has moved most mental health services online. This has prompted major challenges for providers who regularly utilize EMDR in therapy. Traditionally, EMDR in therapy is done in person through the utilization of bilateral stimulation tools. How are providers adapting this to a virtual therapy setting?

Screen Sharing

Some providers are utilizing screen sharing options to continue delivering EMDR therapy. This tool allows them to share with their client what they wish them to focus on. This enables the therapist to control the left to right visual stimulation.

Patient Instructions

Providers have also tried delivering EMDR in therapy by asking patients to try different methods of stimulation like tapping on their legs. This is more difficult because the provider does not have control over the speed, start, and stop of the process.

Issues Providers Might Run Into

The nature of EMDR is to help clients process trauma. It is best to do this in person so you have control over the client’s environment and safety. This kind of therapy can often trigger trauma responses and crisis-level reactions that a therapist would normally be present to help navigate. Online EMDR therapy removes these safety options.

Providers are also used to seeing the client’s entire body movements. This helps them read whether or not a client is becoming too overwhelmed. Online therapy makes this difficult as providers can only see the top half of their client’s body.

Providers are navigating these issues and complications to practicing EMDR virtually through the use of emergency contact information. If they believe their client is in danger or at risk, they can contact their designated emergency contact.

Therapists everywhere are doing an incredible job transitioning to online care during unprecedented times. To learn more about a therapist in your area, click here.

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  • Debbie Gilbert Mitchell

    October 15th, 2022 at 12:07 PM

    EMDR Therapist

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