EMDR Therapy Online - An in-depth look at online trauma treatment

Original Publishing Date:
September 21, 2019
Last Update:
May 17, 2024

EMDR is a highly sought after, effective treatment solution for tackling difficult life memories or current upsetting triggers. The treatment of EMDR is utilized for anxiety, depression, performance anxiety and optimization, PTSD, and much more. It can be delivered both in-person and online with similar results.

What makes EMDR different?

There are a number of factors that make EMDR counseling different from standard or supportive counseling:

  1. EMDR can be short term with noticeable results in a few sessions
  2. EMDR does not require you to go into great detail about life events if you do not prefer
  3. EMDR utilizes the biomechanics of the brain and is based on science
  4. There have been 100’s of studies showing EMDR’s effectiveness over other interventions

How is EMDR done online?

EMDR is done online through virtual telehealth in a very similar way to in-person. The primary change is the way Duel Attention Stimuli, or DAS, is delivered. EMDR utilizes DAS to desensitize activating or troubling content both from historical events or current, life triggers. When EMDR is provided online, the therapist may utilize software, music, or have you tap on your knees or shoulders. In the event that you do not have access to video conferencing, virtual EMDR can also be conducted over the phone.

Did you know we specialize in Online EMDR? Our providers are trained in providing EMDR remotely and are experts in trauma recovery. Sign up is easy!

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How do I know EMDR is right for me?

As with most psychotherapy interventions, meeting with a therapist for an initial session can help you discern your specific needs and goals for your time participating in remote counseling. This is a good chance to explore if Online EMDR treatment is a good option for you and if the timing is right. Prior to starting on any difficult memory or trigger content, your counselor will make sure you are prepared by utilizing EMDR specific coping and resource skills to ensure safety and that you are able to feel grounded at the end of each session.

How does Online EMDR work?

Remote EMDR mechanics are the same as they are in-person. This mind-body intervention facilitates our brain’s existing mechanisms of healing. This is possible because it:

When we allow ourselves to heal, the body can more effectively respond to any current situation or danger in front of us without the past interfering.

  • Desensitizes disturbing or traumatic memories and current triggers so it no longer activates the body’s fight, flight, freeze, or fawn emergency response
  • Reduces the intensity and vividness of visual imagery or other stimuli related to memories or triggers
  • Engages the rational reasoning, contextualizing, and thought areas of the brain to allow it to think more accurately about events and unlink from unhelpful thoughts that activate the emergency system, like “I can never be forgiven” or “It is my fault”
  • Teaches the brain to orient more accurately to time and place, so the body can recognize that it is no longer in danger and that the event is over
  • Activates the “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system to promote greater feelings of ease, a neutral to positive outlook, smooth digestion, and physical healing

Frequently Asked Questions About Doing EMDR Treatment Online

Will EMDR cause me to lose control of my emotions?

I often say to my clients that “EMDR treatment does not create anything that was not already there”. In other words, although clients may become emotional during EMDR sessions, this can be understood as a release of pent up feelings that may have been there for months, potentially years or decades. Emotional expression is a necessary part of our natural healing process.

An experienced and skilled EMDR therapist will walk you through what to expect during sessions, teach you specific resourcing and coping techniques, and ensure that safety measures are in place to prevent any loss of control. The goal of EMDR treatment is to feel better. Sometimes this means old content becomes activated so we can move through it, heal, and move beyond it.

You as the client are in charge of the entire process and can stop and take a break at any time.

Will EMDR change my memories?

EMDR desensitizes memories by utilizing DAS. This causes the brain to rewire differently in response to current stimuli or memory triggers. This means that memories can become altered, and are often described as less vivid, disturbing, and intrusive. For this reason, if you have any legal issues that require you to give a testimony or recall specific information, it is best to wait until after the legal proceedings to do EMDR treatment.

It is important to note that EMDR does not erase memories. It simply helps the brain and body heal from these events. As a result, the content cannot stay the same. It can no longer hijack the brain and body causing it to go into the emergency modes of activation or shut-down.

How do I protect myself if the memory becomes changed from EMDR?

We often believe that keeping a memory or event “alive” will serve to protect us so that we remember to be cautious, to not make the same mistake again, and to keep our guard up! Clients can become worried that reprocessing or desensitizing a memory through EMDR might leave one disarmed. This is an understandable and reasonable concern; however, it is not accurate.

The body is designed to go into fight, flight, freeze, or fawn mode when it is in danger and then return to “rest and digest” mode. The body is not designed to remain in these heightened states of awareness, and when it remains there the body can begin to suffer from illnesses, mental health disorders, chronic fatigue, etc. If the brain and the body learn to return to a sense of safety and presence, it is actually better positioned to move to safety when needed. When we allow ourselves to heal, the body can more effectively respond to any current situation or danger in front of us without the past interfering.

What if someone lost their life? Will I dishonor them by using EMDR and desensitizing memories?

This is another understandable concern as often clients worry that by reprocessing life events through EMDR they will forget the person who passed away or betray them by healing from the experience. Healing from these events provides the space and ability to honor and celebrate the lives of those we have lost. If the brain and body continue to be hijacked by the emergency and trauma responses in the brain, it is very hard to mourn, celebrate, or lay to rest those we lost or the way we lost them.

Healing from these events provides the space and ability to honor and celebrate the lives of those we have lost.

What if I Can’t Remember What Happened or Only Have Fragmented Parts of the Event?

Sometimes life events can overwhelm the memory systems of the brain to the point that only fragments of the event or body memories remain afterwards. Your EMDR therapist can help you identify these fragments or body sensations to desensitize during EMDR treatment even if there are no words or visuals.

How do I get started with online EMDR?

Our practice specializes in Online EMDR and all of our counselors are specialty trained in trauma recovery. If you’d like to explore online EMDR as a treatment option for you, please reach out to us to connect with one of our online psychotherapists to start your EMDR telehealth healing journey!

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“Pain travels through families until someone is ready to feel it”
— Stephi Wagner
Rachael Miller, MA, LCPC, NCC, EAC, EMDR-C

Rachael is a Board Certified, Licensed Clinical Therapist and the owner of Chicago Counseling. She is known for her work both nationally and globally for creating dozens of innovative community programs, education seminars, and intervention optimization projects.

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