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Yes, Virtual EMDR Therapy Works!

Updated: Jun 24

EMDR therapy can be quite effective when done virtually. As with any type of therapy, it is important to determine your comfort level with virtual therapy. Research on the effectiveness of virtual EMDR therapy is currently occurring. However, there are many therapists who are currently utilizing EMDR therapy virtually who can attest to the effectiveness. The EMDR international association (EMDRIA) has released guidelines for therapists who practice remotely.


The pros and cons that relate to any mode of teletherapy can apply to virtual EMDR therapy. However, there is an added component because of the fact that EMDR therapy can bring about strong emotions due to the reprocessing of traumatic memories. Therefore, it is important to talk to your therapist to determine if you would be a good candidate for virtual EMDR therapy. Typically you will spend a little more time developing resources to cope with emotions that are triggered through reprocessing.


There are many ways in which the bilateral stimulation (e.g., eye movements) can be conducted during virtual EMDR therapy. Some therapists use programs with a dot that moves across the screen. Some programs also offer alternating sounds or have the ability to allow “tappers” or other bilateral tactile device to be connected (e.g., remote EMDR with Bi-Tapp). Sometimes the therapist may have you alternate taps on your chest (aka butterfly hug), knees or other parts of your body. You an also place post-it notes or other objects on your wall so that you can move your eyes back and forth.


Although the way in which the bilateral stimulation is applied can sometimes be somewhat different than in person therapy, the other components of EMDR remain the same. For example, there are still 8 phases. Ultimately, it does appear that virtual EMDR therapy can be effective. You need to assess your current needs and talk to your therapist about the pros and cons of virtual EMDR therapy.


Resources


The EMDR International Association (EMDRIA) has listed several studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of EMDR administered via Telehealth. Visit emdria.org for more information. Below is a sampling of these studies:

Bongaerts, H. Voorendonk, E. M., van Minnen, A., & de Jongh, A. (2021). Safety and effectiveness of intensive treatment for complex PTSD delivered via home-based telehealth. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 12(1), 1860346.

Fisher, N. (2021). Using EMDR therapy to treat clients remotely. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 15(1), 73-84.


Kaptan, S. K., Varese, F., Yilmaz, B., Andriopoulou, P., & Husain, N. (2022). “Online delivery gave me privacy and distance from others”: Feasibility trial and qualitative evaluation of an online intervention for refugees and asylum seekers; LTP + EMDR G-TEP. Counselling & Psychotherapy Research.


Lenferink, L. I. M., Meyerbroker, K., & Boelen, P. A. (2020). PTSD treatment in times of COVID-19: A systematic review of the effects of online EMDR. Psychiatry Research, 293:113438.


McGowan, I. W., Fisher, N., Havens, J., & Proudlock, S. (2021). An evaluation of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy delivered remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic. BMC Psychiatry, 21, 560.


Perri, R. L., Castelli, P., La Rosa, C., Zucchi, T., & Onofri, A. (2021). COVID-19, isolation, quarantine: on the efficacy of internet-based eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for ongoing trauma. Brain Sciences, 11(5), 579.


Todder, D., & Kaplan, Z. (2007). Rapid eye movements for acute stress disorder using video conference communication. Telemedicine and e-Health, (13)4, 461-464.


Yurtsever, A., Bakalim, O., Karaman, S., Kaya, S., & Konuk, E. (2022). The effect of the online eye movement desensitization and reprocessing early intervention protocol (EMDR R-TEP) for the risk groups with post-traumatic stress symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic. Frontiers in Psychology, 935782.


Disclaimer: This article is not intended for medical advice. Please consult a healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment.

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