Online EMDR Therapy: Everything You Should Know

Online EMDR Therapy: Everything You Should Know

According to a study published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, EMDR participants suffering from PTSD reported significant improvement post-treatment. 

In light of today’s digital age, a common question arises:: can EMDR therapy be done online? The answer is straightforward: Yes. The effectiveness of this method remains consistent whether conducted face-to-face or online. 

This article will dive into online EMDR therapy, exploring its effectiveness and how it works. By the end, you’ll be able to understand why it can prove to be a viable option for many seeking help.

Impact of EMDR on Patients With PTSD

What is EMDR Therapy?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a potent psychotherapy technique rooted in neuroscience, specifically designed to address psychological stress by altering the way traumatic memories are stored in the brain. Initially developed for trauma and PTSD, EMDR has expanded its scope to treat various mental health issues, particularly those rooted in past trauma.

Unlike conventional talk therapies, EMDR zeroes in on distressing memories, challenging negative self-beliefs, and alleviating physical discomforts. During EMDR sessions, therapists guide clients in rapid eye movements through a process known as bilateral stimulation (BLS). These swift movements facilitate the accelerated processing of emotions and memories.

The essence of EMDR lies in its ability to prompt the brain to reorganize and diminish the severity of negative memories. This reorganization empowers individuals to recognize that past events don’t dictate their current reality. The impact of EMDR is evident from a study that showed that 84% of participants were free from PTSD after just 3 EMDR sessions.

How Does EMDR Therapy Work?

EMDR therapy is an eight-stage process. Through these stages, the aim is to treat the effects of trauma and help patients manage their emotions more effectively. Every EMDR session’s duration can differ based on the patient’s needs and the therapists adjust the treatment accordingly. The process goes as follows for in-person, and online EMDR therapy:

  1. History and  Treatment Planning

At this stage, establishing a strong bond with the patient is very important. This video delves further into the importance of this connection:

Here, the therapist collaborates with the client, discussing their history to pinpoint traumatic events and their impact. Together, they craft a tailored treatment plan, addressing past traumas and present-day hurdles, drawing on both internal strengths and external resources.

  1. Preparation

In this stage, the therapist explains the EMDR process, lays out expectations, and introduces techniques like relaxation exercises and stress management to handle potential emotional disturbances. This ensures the client feels supported and prepared for the following stages. 

  1. Assessment

The therapist works with the client to recognize the traumatic events to be reprocessed. This involves identifying associated images, beliefs, and physical sensations. Key measures, like the Subjective Units of Distress (SUD) and Validity of Cognition (VOC), provide baselines for tracking progress.

  1. Desensitization

The therapist guides the client through techniques such as rapid eye movements, to help them manage distress related to the traumatic event. The goal is to reduce the intensity of negative emotions and make room for more positive outlooks.

  1. Installation

Once desensitized, the aim shifts to creating a positive belief within the patient. The therapist ensures that the client’s positive cognition feels genuine, helping to replace the old distressing beliefs.

  1. Body Scan

During this stage, the therapist asks the client to become aware of any remaining physical tension or discomfort. This stage ensures that the entire trauma, including its physical manifestations, is addressed and processed.

  1. Closure

This marks the end of the treatment, and the therapist assists the client in returning to a state of feeling feeling safe and grounded. Techniques learned during the preparation phase can be used here to help the client regain a sense of calm and revise helpful techniques. 

Closure is evaluated on the following terms:

  • The patient should feel neutral about the traumatic event (SUD=0)
  • The positive beliefs installed should feel real (VOC=7)
  • No symptom of any disturbance in the body should be reported.
  1. Reevaluation

At the start of future sessions, the therapist evaluates the patient’s progress. This involves discussing any remaining distress and revisiting processed memories. At this stage, the therapist and client can communicate about future steps for the treatment.

8-Phases of EMDR Therapy

Why Choose EMDR Therapy?

The diagnostic data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication indicates the lifetime risk of PTSD among Americans, showing its high prevalence. The data further revealed that about 5.2% of American women are more likely to face PTSD in their lifetime, a rate significantly higher than the 1.8% observed in American men.

Online EMDR therapy emerges as an effective treatment for this. It is believed to be effective as the use of bilateral stimulation (BLS) provides a focal point during the recollection of painful memories and intrusive thoughts.  While it is most commonly used to treat PTSD, a report in 2017 revealed other prospects for EMDR therapy as well. These include:

  • Psychosis
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Substance use disorders
  • Depression

Benefits of Online EMDR Therapy

As reported by the EMDR Institute, 84% to 90% of people who went through a single traumatic event showed considerable improvement after their EMDR sessions. Some of the key benefits of online EMDR therapy include:

  • Improved Accessibility: Online EMDR therapy allows you access to treatment no matter where you are in the world, provided you have a stable internet connection. This allows you to choose from a  broad choice of skilled EMDR therapists without having to leave your home.
  • Time-saving: While saving commute time and costs, online EMDR therapy opens the way for accessing therapy at your convenience. Additionally, these sessions are required one to two times per week for a total of 6-12 sessions. This makes it a relatively short-term treatment with a high impact. 
  • Privacy: EMDR therapy online enhances client privacy by avoiding any unexpected encounters at a face-to-face appointment. This reduces any possible fear of vulnerability in a new environment. Instead, participating in EMDR therapy from a familiar space, can facilitate openness and assist in addressing traumatic memories during sessions.
  • Continuity of care: Consistent care is of high value in this treatment. Online EMDR therapy offers a valuable solution for those hindered by illness, disability, or other constraints. It ensures uninterrupted treatment, adapting to every patient’s unique circumstances.

How To Prepare For Your First Online EMDR Therapy Appointment

Before your first online EMDR session, you should make some arrangements to ensure that your session goes smoothly. Here are some tips: 

  • Device With a Camera: Starting with online EMDR is just a click away. However, for optimal results, devices with larger screens like laptops or tablets are recommended. These provide the therapist ample space to observe your body language and employ various visual bilateral stimulation techniques.
  • Headphones: Wearing headphones during your online EMDR session can significantly enhance your experience. They allow for auditory bilateral stimulation (BLS) along with enhanced sound quality. Additionally, headphones reduce background noise, offering a more confidential zone, especially if you’re in a shared space or living with others.
  • Location: Choose a comfortable location for your online EMDR session. It’s essential to find a spot that lets you concentrate and participate fully. Position your device at eye level to ensure the technique’s effectiveness. 
Key Takeaways
  • EMDR is a strong therapy technique for addressing traumatic memories and psychological stress. It’s equally effective online as it is in-person.
  • EMDR therapy is an eight-stage process designed to address trauma effects and improve emotional management.
  • Online EMDR therapy, primarily known for treating PTSD, is also effective for conditions like anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder, utilizing bilateral stimulation during therapy sessions.
  • Online EMDR therapy offers increased accessibility, enhanced privacy, and consistent care, making treatment more flexible and efficient for patients.
  • To optimize online EMDR sessions, use devices with larger screens and headphones for better engagement and confidentiality.


Will my insurance pay for online EMDR sessions?

Most private insurance plans cover EMDR due to its effectiveness. However, some online health platforms, like MDLive, don’t support EMDR. Always check your plan’s specifics.

Are online mental health services covered by insurance?

Many insurance plans now cover online mental health services, thanks to advocacy. Still, it’s essential to ensure your plan doesn’t limit you to certain platforms.

What if I have to change or cancel my appointment?

Consistency is key with EMDR. If you can’t make it, inform your therapist ASAP. Usually, a 24-hour notice is needed to avoid charges.

What if online EMDR isn’t for me?

It’s okay to feel that way. Talk to your therapist about your feelings. They can suggest alternatives or refer you to someone else.