One of the most frequently used psychotherapies for trauma, stress, and depression is the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). The therapy, which was pioneered by Francis Shapiro in California, has shown positive outcomes in many studies. Even real-life reviews of EMDR from people who have taken it are promising.
EMDR relies on bilateral stimulation during therapy sessions. For this part of the therapy, sometimes therapists use devices depending on the type of bilateral stimulation. One of these devices is paddles or buzzers, sometimes also called tappers.
If the therapist chooses to use tactile stimulation, you’ll need to use these paddles during the therapy.
What are EMDR Paddles?
EMDR paddles are commonly also called buzzers, pulsators, and tappers. These are vibrating devices that the client holds in their hands, one in each hand. The device vibrates or buzzes alternately, that is, right to left and left to right. This is part of tactile stimulation during EMDR therapy.
The EMDR paddles or pulsators are electronic devices designed especially for this purpose. These work on their own for the most part, but the frequency of the pulses or vibrations can be adjusted in most devices.
There are several different devices available nowadays that therapists can use with their clients. Even clients can buy these on their own to use for online EMDR therapy or when using a virtual EMDR tool.
What is Tactile Stimulation in EMDR?
In order to understand the function of EMDR paddles or tappers, it’s necessary to first have an understanding of tactile stimulation. These devices are essentially used for tactile stimulation, which is a type of EMDR bilateral stimulation.
EMDR therapy focuses on traumatic memories alongside bilateral stimulation, which refers to the stimulation of both sides of the brain. To do that, there’s a need for external stimuli that goes from one side to the other while the client is focused on it and following.
Eye movement is the most common type of stimulation (visual) where a client follows the therapist’s finger or a light on the screen or device while they talk about their trauma. This bilateral stimulation helps activate the whole brain and also reduces the emotional stress of revisiting those memories.
Tactile stimulation refers to tapping on either side of the body of the client. Normally, either the therapist taps the palms or knees of the client in an alternate motion, or the client taps by themselves by putting their palms across their shoulders. This manual approach is not that feasible because of several reasons. One of those reasons is that psychologists avoid making any physical contact with their clients.
So to make tactile stimulation more convenient, safe, and efficient, some companies have introduced tapping devices, which look like paddles.
The purpose is pretty much the same as with other kinds of bilateral stimulation. The only difference is that for tactile stimulation in online or virtual therapy, these paddles are necessary. Unlike audio or visual stimulation, tactile stimulation cannot be done without the help of these pulsators.
How to Use EMDR Paddles?
Using EMDR paddles or pulsators is pretty easy. Traditionally, tapping can occur on shoulders, palms, or knees, but these devices usually create pulses in the palms.
There are two paddles, and the client holds one in each hand. Now, these are normally wired paddles controlled by a central device or even an app. The therapist can control the speed of the buzzing as per the need of the moment. If the client is conducting EMDR by themselves, they can set the speed and start their therapy session.
The actual mechanism of control differs by device. Now, we even have wireless ones that are controlled via smartphones.
The client’s job is just to keep holding on to these paddles while they talk about their trauma. The device keeps vibrating alternatively (once on the left and once on the right).
Best EMDR Paddles/Buzzers Options
There are plenty of options out there for EMDR paddles and buzzers. Many brands use different terms for these devices, which can make things confusing for therapists and clients alike. The common terms are tappers, paddles, buzzers, and pulsators. These all refer to the devices used for tactile stimulation in EMDR therapy.
One of the most reliable companies producing EDMR stimulation devices is EMDRKit. The Dutch company produces devices for all types of bilateral stimulation. What’s more, they even make a wireless version of these devices that work via Wifi.
The EMDRKit includes pulsators as well, which can be controlled on a mobile or tablet through the app from this company.
Another company producing EMDR paddles is NeuroTek. The NeuroTek Standard Pulsers have an ergonomic shape, which makes it incredibly easy to hold on to them for a long time. However, these pulsers don’t work without the NeuroTek controller device, so that must be purchased separately too.
TheraTapper makes proprietary wired tapping devices with small paddles that clients can easily hold in their hands. Unlike NeuroTek, it comes with its controlling device, which is pretty easy to use with the help of some knobs on the device. You can set the intensity, length, and pauses for the vibrations.
If you’re seeking EMDR therapy the traditional way, your therapist will most likely provide one of these devices. However, if you’re doing therapy online, you may need to purchase these. Consult with your therapist whether you’ll need these paddles when it’s time for reprocessing.
EMDR paddles are essential for successful tactile stimulation during EMDR therapy. While there are two other stimulation options that can also be done virtually, many therapists still prefer tactile stimulation. Some may use a combination of them.
The market for EMDR tappers and pulsators isn’t that saturated yet, but still, there are several options out there. You can easily buy them online from the manufacturer’s website or on a marketplace like Amazon.
Whatever paddles you end up buying, make sure to understand first how they work and how you can control them. This is because the process varies by device.