EMDR Therapy Now Available Virtually.
Back in our cave-dwelling days, a nervous system that had a hair-trigger response to presumed danger was critical for survival. Our nervous system needed to be ready to fight, take flight or freeze in a split second. While the world and how we live in it has evolved, we still rely on that original model for our nervous system. When times are stressful, such as the current environment with the COVID-19 pandemic, or if we have experienced a trauma, our nervous system can trick us into believing we are in imminent danger at any moment—even when there is no threat in the present moment.
For some this can be paralyzing. Someone who got food poisoning once in a restaurant may have panic attacks and no longer be able to eat out. A victim of assault may consciously think they are recovered, but then be triggered by a sound or a smell because their nervous system has made an unconscious connection and has labeled it as dangerous. Stress and uncertainty can exacerbate feelings of anxiety and keep our nervous systems in a constant state of alert, disrupting sleep and activities of daily living. It’s exhausting, leaving many to wonder where or how to get help, especially at a time when many businesses are still closed, and people are more comfortable continuing to stay at home for their health and safety.
Online Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) Can Help
“The body often holds onto frightening, painful experiences, leading people to feel stuck in patterns of emotional and/or physical distress,” says Janette Dingee, MAAT, ATR, LCPC, and a certified EMDR therapists at The Juniper Center. “Intrusive thoughts about a past experience, death, guilt, or complicated grief can interfere with daily life, and EMDR is one way to help lessen the severity of those painful memories.”
EMDR therapy pairs the recall of a traumatic memory and associated senses (sounds, smells, images) with sensory input, such as side-to-side eye movement, hand tapping on the body or other distracting tasks, to help lessen the severity and painful nature of the associated memory itself. “Through EMDR treatment, we can lessen the heightened state of anxiety that comes with the memory, which can in turn help you continue life without the pain and fear around that event hanging over your head,” Janette adds.
What are the benefits of EMDR?
One benefit of EMDR is its brevity depending on the severity of the trauma. Treatment times will ultimately depend on the level of complexity of the traumatic event. If there is a single traumatic event that’s particularly difficult to live with, patients are often able to continue their daily activities after just a few EMDR sessions.
EMDR is especially effective for patients experiencing PTSD, anxiety, and other trauma-related mental health issues. And because of the way emotionally charged memories and images affect the progression of other psychological disorders, EMDR can also be used as part of the treatment plan for a wide variety of issues including depression, behavioral issues, eating disorders, and chronic pain.
EMDR is “evidence-based,” meaning that there has been extensive research on EMDR to affirm its efficacy. It is recognized as an effective form of treatment by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the U.S. Department of Health, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS), and the behavioral issues and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
As part of its teletherapy offerings, The Juniper Center is now offering EMDR treatment virtually, via a secure online videoconference, allowing people to get help right from the comfort of home.
What would your online EMDR session look like?
EMDR works best with a computer to take your sessions, but you could take treatment from a tablet or phone if a desktop or laptop is not an option.
For the therapist to gain as much information as possible about the traumatic event, you’ll first be asked to recall everything you can about a particular traumatic event, including the images, thoughts, and feelings associated with it.
Then you’ll be asked to recall the event again, only with a selection of distracting stimuli. In an in-person session, these stimuli might include following the therapist’s fingers or listening to alternating sounds on a pair of headphones. Online sessions recreate many of the same experiences of an in-person session, such as having the patient move their eyes back and forth with eyes closed, tapping their own arms and legs with their hand, stomping their feet, spelling words or phrases, humming a song. The patient does these tasks while holding the memory in their mind. The effect is that it degrades the power of and disturbance around the memory.
These distractions are called “sets,” and after each set, you’ll discuss any thoughts or feelings that have come up and then you’ll repeat the set. “Repeating these sets, while incrementally adding distracting tasks, will eventually lead to a decrease in overwhelm that is attached to the disturbing memory, making it less painful to think about,” Janette says. “The more distracting tasks you do, the quicker the recovery can be. As time goes on, the distressing memory will even fade and hold less power over you.”
Is online EMDR right for you?
EMDR is typically covered by insurance and can be an excellent option on its own or as part of a larger treatment plan. If you are curious about whether online EMDR therapy is right for you or a loved one, we’re happy to discuss what type or treatment might be right for you during a confidential call.
Learn more about connecting with Janette or another therapy approaches at The Juniper Center by calling 847.759.9110 x1 or through our contact form here.