Trauma can be a life-changing event that can result in mental disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It can also result in stress and anxiety that disrupts a person’s life and relations.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) has been highly successful at helping trauma victims with PTSD. Now, EMDR via telehealth is paving new ways for trauma victims to get help.
EMDR is a special therapy designed to allow trauma victims to remember and process memories from the traumatic event that changed their life. It also involves a distraction, mainly involving eye movements guided by a therapist. Extensive research has shown positive outcomes of this particular therapy for clients facing triggers, haunting memories, panic attacks, and emotional stress.
Many people are doing EMDR virtually through computers and mobile devices. While traditionally delivered by a therapist in their office, the remote delivery has some people questioning whether it’s effective or not.
What is Telehealth?
Telehealth is defined as remote clinical health care delivered through telecommunication devices. It can involve consultation with a doctor, a therapy session with a psychologist, or reviewing test results remotely. Telehealth is basically an umbrella term for all these things that are very common today in the healthcare sector.
Telehealth isn’t a new concept. In fact, the term has been existent for a long time now, ever since telecommunication became a norm. However, the term recently resurfaced when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world. Many doctors and therapists had to move their services online, delivering consultations and therapy sessions remotely through computer software or mobile apps.
In fact, many governments encouraged people and healthcare personnel to adopt telehealth during the pandemic. This resulted in a dramatic increase in virtual healthcare delivery or telehealth services. Of course, many patients still needed to go into hospitals and labs, but those that didn’t resort to telehealth services.
Therapists, in particular, moved their services entirely online. Therapy, unlike many other healthcare services, can easily be provided online or through other communication modes like the telephone. However, online therapy goes back way before the pandemic, as many people needed therapy remotely for a number of reasons.
EMDR Via Telehealth, Is It Effective?
We already have ample proof that EMDR itself is highly beneficial for PTSD sufferers. Not just PTSD, it’s also been found to be helpful for dissociative disorders and depression, especially those linked with or accompanied by trauma. So the main question is whether it’s effective when given virtually?
There’s no reason to believe that EMDR via telehealth cannot be as beneficial as the therapy delivered in a therapist’s office. In most cases, the therapist is communicating with and guiding the client. There’s no physical contact in this therapy, except for the use of EMDR tappers that are often used for bilateral stimulation. As such, verbal communication is more dominant, which allows therapists to deliver the therapy online rather easily.
Moreover, EMDR has specific guidelines and protocols that must be followed by the therapist, and consequently, the client. While there’s some room to follow the therapy based on the client’s need or pace, but overall, it’s pretty specific and has a set progression. There are eight phases or stages that every therapist has to follow for EMDR.
So as long as the protocol is followed, it doesn’t matter much whether the therapy is done in-person or online.
As for research, there haven’t been many studies particularly focusing on online EMDR therapy. However, a 2013 open trial study focusing on internet-based EMDR found mostly positive results, as participants reported improvement in symptoms in the long term. While not conclusive, it does provide some evidence that there’s no stark difference between in-person and online EMDR therapy, as far as effectiveness goes.
Who is Online EMDR For?
EMDR via telehealth can be a great option for a lot of people who otherwise cannot get this therapy. As the pandemic showed, there can be public health emergencies that may prevent people from going about their day as they usually do. That also includes getting therapy.
Online therapy can be a lifesaver in such situations, as people can still see and speak to their therapists even if they cannot go out or visit their practice for a therapy session. Evidently, EMDR delivered through telehealth can help any trauma victims in times of pandemics or other public emergencies.
Online EMDR can also be ideal for the following:
- People who live in remote areas and don’t have access to quality healthcare, especially therapists specializing in EMDR.
- Individuals with disabilities or mobility issues may find it hard to travel to a therapist’s office.
- People who may have social anxiety as well, in addition to PTSD, and may be more comfortable doing the therapy at home.
- Someone who is frequently traveling for work, and may not be able to attend all sessions of the therapy.
- Someone living in a foreign country where there may be hard to find an EMDR therapist who speaks their native language.
EMDR Via Telehealth Options
If you’re someone who can benefit from EMDR via telehealth, you have two options to choose from: Online therapy and virtual therapy using video tutorials or tools.
Online EMDR Therapy
This is the most commonly used way for EMDR other than the traditional office-based therapy. As described above, online EMDR therapy follows the same protocols and practices, except few minor differences. It’s delivered mainly through video calls, as in this therapy, you need to follow the therapist’s directions, which are best delivered face-to-face.
Many therapists independently offer online therapy, including EMDR. You can search online or ask family or friends to recommend someone they know and trust. Find out of they offer online therapy and discuss the process before beginning.
Another option is online EMDR therapy through a platform. Many therapists these days work on online platforms to deliver therapy. BetterHelp.com is a well-known platform with certified therapists, mostly based in the US, delivering therapy in English and some other languages as well. You can easily find a therapist trained in EMDR and experienced in dealing with trauma victims.
Virtual EMDR Therapy via Tool
While traditional telehealth therapy still relies on a therapist, this option eliminates the need to even search for a therapist. Now, you can even self-administer EMDR therapy with the help of a tool. This tool mostly comprises video guides, as well as components that help with the bilateral stimuli and eye movements.
One such virtual EMDR tool by EMDR Healing allows PTSD clients to get EMDR in a more controlled fashion and at a highly affordable rate. EMDR, even when done by yourself, is largely safe and effective in the long run.
As such, EMDR therapy via telehealth is not that different from EMDR delivered in the office by a therapist. You can either work with a therapist and complete sessions online in the comfort of your home. Alternatively, you can try the self EMDR tool, which can save you money and time spent looking for a therapist.
This can be a viable option for a lot of people suffering from PTSD symptoms as a result of trauma. They can get therapy that works in getting them back to a healthier lifestyle even remotely wherever they are.