Can EMDR Be Done Online and Virtually Through a Tool?


EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitizing and Reprocessing) has been proven to benefit trauma victims, suffering from trauma. Developed by revered psychologist Francine Shapiro, it’s a well-documented procedure that has been scientifically tested as well. However, traditionally it’s done 1:1 with a therapist, so is it possible to do it virtually with a tool?

For most people, therapy typically means visiting a therapist’s practice, sitting down, and having a chat face to face. Many people do that online as well through video calls and text messages. When the pandemic hit in 2020, many therapists moved their sessions completely online. The need for social distancing didn’t just affect therapy but healthcare, in general, with doctors seeing their patients virtually on a screen. 

So naturally, the need to do EMDR online also increased, as many trauma victims couldn’t take the traditional route and visit a therapist. However, there are concerns when it comes to doing EMDR virtually. 

Virtual EMDR Explained

There are two types of virtual or online EMDR. The first is with a therapist done online on a video call. The second is with the help of a tool that guides the patient through the different phases and steps of the process. 

For this article, we’ll just focus on the tool, as virtual EMDR with a therapist online is not that different from one on one sessions. However, doing it with a tool is a little different as you don’t have a therapist live to instruct and guide you. 

Virtual EMDR through a tool is based on the same principles of EMDR. It’s structured in the same way, and these tools are actually designed by therapists and use their voices and faces. However, it’s still a little different because there’s more client involvement. That’s not to say that successful EMDR through a tool is not possible.

Of course, a computer and an internet connection are necessary for using the EMDR tool. 

Do Online EMDR Tools Work?

EMDR comprises eight different phases, and there are many steps involved in each phase. Typically, the sessions last for 90 minutes. So as a therapy, EMDR has a set protocol that all therapists follow alike. 

Unlike talk therapy, this type of therapy is more directional and uses a set of steps that are predetermined. In other words, EMDR is not as dynamic as talk therapy that it would necessitate having a face-to-face session with a therapist. 

Again, these tools are designed with the help of therapists who have experience in EMDR. As a result, the videos and the tools are all aligned with the core EMDR phases and steps. 

The difference between doing it with a therapist and doing it online is that the client has to heed to the instructions themselves, especially during the later stages of reprocessing and side-to-side eye movement. A therapist isn’t physically present near them to direct them or to ensure that they are following the instructions to the letter. 

This can be challenging for some patients, but it’s not impossible. It also depends on the tool itself and what resources it uses. Most such tools rely on video and audio guides to help the client self-administer EMDR at their own pace and in the comfort of their home. Again, the element of adhering to those directions takes precedence, as it’s the client’s responsibility to ensure they are following the directions. 

As for the effectiveness for the victim or patient, it doesn’t so much depend on whether the therapy is conducted online or in person. EMDR itself has been found to be effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from singular trauma. According to a publication in the Permanente Journal, 24 randomized controlled trials found EMDR to be effective in treating emotional trauma. 

While there hasn’t been much research on EMDR delivered through a tool virtually or self-administered EMDR, in particular, as far as the efficacy of the treatment is concerned, it’s well established in the psychology world. 

Benefits of Doing EMDR With a Tool

While those who have access to an EMDR therapist may be better off getting it in person, there are several benefits to doing it virtually through a tool:

  • Affordable: Virtual EMDR tools are way more affordable for trauma victims than actual therapy. Not everyone has insurance or cash in their pocket to afford the 8 to 12 sessions the therapy may require to complete. 
  • More Flexibility: Doing EMDR with a tool can offer more flexibility, as the client can conduct it conveniently on their own schedule. With a therapist, there’s usually not that much flexibility of time, as they may be booked for days or weeks. 
  • More Control: Self-administering EMDR can give control to the client. Even though they are following directions from the tool or video guide, ultimately, they are in control of their imagery and activity (bilateral stimulation). Similarly, some people might have other issues like social anxiety that may prevent them from working with a therapist. So using a virtual tool instead can help them work on their trauma without triggering their social anxiety. 
  • Remote Access: Not every therapist has specialized in EMDR, which can make their availability scarce for people in remote places. In many regions and countries, there’s a serious lack of psychotherapists and psychologists altogether. In such places, virtual EMDR can come in handy. The tool can be accessed by anyone, anywhere, to complete this therapy. 

Challenges/Risks of Doing EMDR With a Tool

Self-administering EMDR through a tool isn’t without its drawbacks and challenges:

  • Dissociation: There’s always a small risk of dissociation with current surroundings during the EMDR therapy, especially in the later stages when the person remembers the traumatic event. The virtual tool may not be equipped to handle this risk, unlike a therapist. 
  • Finding a Suitable Place: An individual pursuing virtual EMDR may not have a private and safe space available to conduct the EMDR, unlike a therapist’s office. 

How to Do EMDR Online?

Self-administering EMDR online with a tool can be effective if done right, and it may be a more viable solution for some patients. We have developed a powerful virtual EMDR tool with the help of experts who understand EMDR. This affordable, easy-to-use tool follows the same structure as therapist-given EMDR. 

For just 20 Euros, trauma victims can benefit from this therapy and see their trauma in a new way that doesn’t result in triggers and emotional baggage. 

For those who prefer to conduct the therapy online with a therapist, BetterHelp.com has certified therapists specializing in EMDR who can conduct the sessions completely online through video conferencing. While it’s still done online, a certified therapist conducts the session, so it’s closer to doing it one on one than doing it yourself through a tool. 

Conducting EMDR yourself through our tool is more economical than online therapy. Plus, you can do it at your own pace and in a space you find comforting. That’s very important for successful virtual EMDR. 

Final Words

If you’re concerned about whether EMDR through an online tool is workable, you should try it yourself. It may not work for everyone, but for the most part, the procedure and steps are no different than doing it face to face with a therapist. 

Online EMDR has its pros and cons, but it’s definitely better than no treatment at all. Also, it’s important to understand EMDR, whether physical or virtual, can only help with single trauma. 

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