By Jessica Wilkerson, MA, LMFT
”Can a person really get any sort of benefit from trying to do EMDR online?” “How will they do it if they can’t use the vibrating paddles or wear the headphones?” “This seems sketchy!”
I have been providing EMDR through telehealth and I’ve been seeing amazing results!
Originally, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) was created by sitting very close to the client with the clinician moving two fingers horizontally in front of the clients eyes (after asking a series of questions intended to activate various parts of the brain).
When the client is in the process of the deep healing work they are watching the therapist’s fingers move left and right, left and right (called bilateral stimulation).
Flash forward to modern day EMDR and we use various other items to engage the client in bilateral stimulation. Some therapists use a lightbar (just a long skinny light that has a dot that moves left and right – it reminds me of sitting in the DMV in the 90’s and the ticker was going with various trivia and info). I use what many clinicians nickname “clickers” or “tappers.” You hold these small paddles the size of a good skipping rock, and they vibrate – toggling left and right. I sit at a distance away from you and you can close your eyes, think your thoughts, and engage in EMDR.
But when we do EMDR in an online session we can’t use the clickers – so I use an app that has a ball that goes left and right. You’re basically engaging in EMDR the original way, using your eyes to watch something moving in front of you, but I’m on the other side of the screen.
I was skeptical at first.
I really wanted to keep helping my clients who were already engaged in EMDR therapy when we went into lockdown for Covid. I gave it a try online and to my surprise it not only worked, but it worked REALLY WELL! People seemed to go as deep or deeper than when they were in the office for their session.
Maybe it’s because they are at home, in their safe space, that they feel comfortable to go deeper? Maybe they are coming into the session already a little triggered because they didn’t get that free time in the car during the drive to button up their emotions? Maybe it’s because they had already been doing EMDR so it was a naturally occuring progression of their healing?
But then I continued to get clients, new ones, seeking EMDR. I told them we can still do it online if they would like to move forward and they started healing and moving forward! They were able to access emotions and memories that had been burdening them for so long. New clients were still finding healing and growth through their online, telehealth sessions.
EMDR is never an easy, peasy experience toward healing. There are usually quite a few tears during the sessions. You feel like a wet rag that’s been wrung out after your session. But the good thing about doing it via telehealth or online is that you can go take a walk or take a nap afterward, which wouldn’t normally be possible if you had driven down to the office.
I’ve been providing EMDR as part of my clinical practice since 2014 and I’m working to get the rest of the therapists on my staff trained in this modality. I have seen such amazing changes and I want this office to be able to keep providing that healing to as many people as possible, especially during such trying times!
By, Jessica Wilkerson, LMFT 104464
Licensed Marriage and Family TherapistJessica first experienced EMDR when she was in her 20’s for a horrible, near death auto accident. It was one of those accidents that has a ripple effect into every aspect of one’s life. It took quite a number of sessions to process all the details, but she can finally sleep on road trips when she’s the passenger. If anyone understands the inability to relax on road trips after major car accidents, then they can sure appreciate the level of healing she received.But what’s more important is that she gets the awe-inspiring job of witnessing other people heal and grow. Her own growth happened. Done. But she gets to journey with others so they can stand on the other side of it, too. That’s an honor not many people get to experience in this world!