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Tech & Devices

Virtual EMDR

 June 4, 2020

By  Natalie Kirilova

Medicinal Mushrooms

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What is Virtual EMDR?

Virtual EMDR is an Internet-delivered form of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing psychotherapy. Originally, EMDR was created to manage traumatic memories, and the distress resulting from them. It is a self-guided therapy appropriate for many health conditions and treatment protocols. These include depression, addictions, PTSD, trauma, phobia and fears, grief, or loss, among others. EMDR works by encouraging a patient to focus on one problematic area, like trauma, while simultaneously being exposed to bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements. It is thought to reduce the vividness and emotional distress associated with traumatic memories. 

This virtual psychotherapy program fits both beginners and advanced users, who can use Eye Movement therapy at home without the need for a therapist. The program follows professional standards and treatment protocols established by EMDR practitioners worldwide. Furthermore, this virtual psychotherapy has been found to be effective with one session only, however, some patients may need more sessions to achieve a therapeutic effect. It is easy to follow a treatment plan with step-by-step guidance. Thousands of satisfied clients practice it at home for management of daily distress or anxiety states among others. No special equipment is required, only a set of headphones and a computer or tablet with a large screen. A therapy session may start immediately regardless of time of day.

It is possible to combine virtual therapy with the in-person Eye Movement therapy. This can be done by using virtual EMDR on the days when a patient does not have an appointment with a therapist. As the Emotional Distress Rating (a scale of 1 – 10 reflecting your current negative emotions), differs in patients, the number of sessions is tailored individually. Patients are typically required to undergo 3 to 12 sessions.

Each session may be ongoing at home or in any other setting free of noise and other people. A patient may need a set of headphones in conjunction with a computer or a tablet with a large-screen. 

How does Virtual EMDR compare to EMDR in person?

Virtual EMDR is a self-guided program for which a therapist’s help is not required. Although direct comparisons between virtual and in-person EMDR are not yet available, the efficacy of virtual EMDR compared to intentional deep breathing for test-taking anxiety was the subject of a 2015 Ph.D. The multiple studies conducted for this concluded that that treatment was effective for reducing test-taking anxiety, even in a classroom setting, and after just one minute. The only other published research on virtual EMDR specifically examined the effect of virtual EMDR combined with virtual cognitive behaviour therapy (another common therapy) on PTSD in adults. This study observed significantly reduced symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety, and distress, from pre-treatment to three-month follow-up, and noted that these results compared favourably to several face-to-face intervention studies. These studies suggest that virtual EMDR can be just as effective as face-to-face therapy, but if you believe you need professional support from a therapist for Eye Movement therapy, please refer to a specialist in your area, prepay coaching for virtual sessions or switch to EMDR in person.

What does the research say about virtual EMDR?

EMDR has been the subject of a growing number of scientific studies. Many positive results have been observed for a variety of conditions.

For example:

  • EMDR was studied for efficacy alongside Internet-delivered cognitive-behavioral therapy (iCBT). 11 participants with PTSD symptoms completed 6 sessions of EMDR and iCBT with post-treatment questionnaires. All subjects showed improvements in PTSD symptoms, depression, anxiety, and distress. In a post-treatment follow-up, 55% of the participants did not qualify as clinically depressed or distressed.
  • EMDR efficacy for psychological and physical symptoms was reviewed in a meta-analysis. 24 controlled trials were included and supported the use of EMDR therapy for emotional trauma and other negative life circumstances. 7 out of 10 studies reported EMDR to be more effective than cognitive-behavioral therapy. 12 studies reported a reduction of negative emotions and disturbing images with EMDR. 8 studies reported a myriad of other positive memory effects. 

What conditions are virtual EMDR used for? 

This virtual psychotherapy is used for various conditions including mental health conditions.

Virtual EMDR for depression

  1. EMDR as a treatment for long‐term depression, 2017
  2. The Efficacy of EMDR in the Treatment of Depression, 2016

Virtual EMDR for anxiety 

  1. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and the Anxiety Disorders, 1999

Virtual EMDR for PTSD 

  1. Treatment of PTSD: Stress inoculation training with prolonged exposure compared to EMDR, 2002
  2. A controlled study of treatment of PTSD using EMDR in an HMO setting, 1997

Virtual EMDR for OCD

  1. EMDR Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Preliminary Research, 2012
  2. Comparison of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing with citalopram in treatment of obsessive–compulsive disorder, 2011

Virtual EMDR for bipolar disorder 

  1. EMDR Therapy Modulates the Default Mode Network in a Subsyndromal, Traumatized Bipolar Patient, 2013

Virtual EMDR for chronic pain

  1. EMDR in the treatment of chronic pain, 2002

Virtual EMDR for consciousness expansion

  1. EMDR as a Transpersonal Therapy: A Trauma-Focused Approach to Awakening Consciousness, 2018

How does Virtual EMDR work?

A patient should have a set of headphones alongside a large-screened computer or tablet. A program uses eye movements alongside side-to-side audio tones to change how you react to negative feelings.

Preparation

  1. Prepare mentally for a session. 
  2. Find a quiet and comfortable place, and start the program.
  3. Set aside at least 20 minutes for one session and 30 minutes if you are new to Eye Movement therapy. The program will ask you how much time you have.
  4. Indicate the problems prompting you to start a session.
  5. Select a protocol. There are Standard, Addiction, PTSD and Trauma, Phobia and Fear, Grief, and Loss or Depression protocols.
  6. Set up visibility, color, speed, audio tone, and time. 

Target Selection

  1. Start the Eye Movement tool. 

Desensitization

  1. Process a target using Eye Movement.
  2. Focus on a negative memory or trauma causing distress or pain and move your eyes following the colors on the screen.
  3. Negative associations resulting from trauma or any other distress-related experience will start to neutralize.

Installation

  1. Try to empower yourself with new beliefs over negative moments from the past using Eye Movement.

Closing

  1. Follow the exercises to calm the body and mind before returning to daily activities.

Ensure to follow the closing steps to get centered.

What will I feel during a virtual EMDR session?

The effects may vary in patients, however, as you are revisiting painful memories, you are likely to experience a deep concentration on your negative feelings that may empower yourself to react positively. This can cause a feeling of light-headedness, which some people liken to having drunk a couple of glasses of wine. People have reported a variety of emotions and states, from feeling mentally exhausted, to laughter and crying. These feelings are normal, but if you have any concerns over how you are feeling you should get in touch with a trained professional.

What will I feel after a virtual EMDR session? 

The effects may vary in patients from session to session. Most patients report positive changes after one session and some may reduce their Emotional Distress Rating by 2 points after a single session.

How much do Virtual EMDR sessions cost?

The cost may vary depending on the provider, but typically range from $69 to $149 per month for unlimited access. Also available to buy are coaching packages, which allow you to speak to a therapist before and after the sessions.

What are the risks of Virtual EMDR treatment?

Like all treatment, this virtual psychotherapy may cause side effects. However, these are fewer compared to the prescription medications used for alleviating depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, or other conditions. 

Virtual EMDR may cause the following adverse reactions:

  • vivid dreams;
  • distress from negative memories;
  • lightheadedness;
  • the onset of new traumatic episodes from the past.

These side effects vanish as therapy continues and the patient learns how to deal with negative memories and empowers themself with new positive emotions.

Is it safe to do EMDR without a professional present?

Virtual EMDR is considered to be a relatively safe therapy if a patient does not have severe mental health conditions that require another treatment protocol. If you believe you need a guideline or support from a therapist, some providers offer personalized coaching options. You may talk to a coach before, during, and after the Eye Movement session.

How do I get started with virtual EMDR?

Contact one of the providers of Virtual EMDR in your area to discuss how to enroll. Speak to your physician to check if this therapy is a good fit for your particular case.

Disclaimer: This website does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911


Natalie is a writer with a focus in medical research with over 10 years of experience

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