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Can EMDR Therapy be done Virtually? Tips from a NY EMDR Therapist

Updated: Sep 24, 2023

EMDR therapy, Virtual therapy, mental health counseling

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, virtual therapy has become a huge part in how people access mental health care. From individual sessions to full partial hospitalization programs, virtual therapy has taken the mental health world by storm. Many different type of mental health therapies can be done virtually. One of the most popular question therapists get asked is "can you do EMDR therapy virtually?" I'm here to answer that question with a big YES!

What is EMDR Therapy?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) is a therapy that was developed in 1987 by Francine Shapiro as a treatment for PTSD. EMDR uses bilateral stimulation to assist client's in processing and healing from disturbing events that have occurred in their lives. At this point in time, EMDR is not only used to treat PTSD but has also been used in the treatment of anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders, substance use disorders and more. Most typically, EMDR is done in person, however, clinicians have found ways to adapt EMDR to a virtual setting to provide more access to the world.

How to Prepare for Virtual EMDR therapy:

First and foremost, when working with a client virtually, we must ensure that treatment via Telehealth is done safely, like we would do in an office setting. Clinicians need to have access to a HIPAA compliant Telehealth service in order to make sure the web sessions cannot be hacked. For example, Peaceful Living uses a platform called Simple Practice.

Secondly, we want to make sure that for both, clinician and client, that they have access to a secure and strong WIFI network. We would not want to be in the middle of reprocessing with a client and have the connection go out.

Third, we want to ensure that the sessions are being held in a space that is safe, private and quiet. Privacy is extremely important for therapy and the clinician should 100% ensure that their work-from-home/virtual space is entirely private and secure for the confidentiality of their clients.

For the clients, we want to make sure they are in a place where their sessions will not be interrupted. Safety is also key in this decision. It may be best for a client potentially still living in a traumatic environment, to find another place to conduct their therapy sessions (if possible). Overall, we want to make sure the client feels safe to do this extremely powerful work.

If safety is an issue, this is something to speak about with your therapist.

This brings me to the actual mechanics of EMDR therapy.

How do you do EMDR virtually?

As before-mentioned, EMDR Therapy uses bilateral stimulation to assist clients in processing traumatic events and memories. Eye movements were the modality that EMDR was founded on, however, through research, it has been shown that bilateral stimulation can be produced using tactile or auditory methods as well. The protocol and tactics for EMDR don't change from in-person to virtual, however, working virtually means clinicians might have to get a bit more creative if the traditional ways aren't producing as much of an outcome.

Below, I will explain a few methods for EMDR, all of which can be used virtually.

Eye Movements:

- tracking the clinicians fingers across the screen

- having the client look at the corners of the room they are in

- having the clinician place their light bar in front of the screen

- clinicians can offer online tools that will mimic bilateral stimulations during reprocessing


- The Butterfly Hug: having the client cross the arms over their chest and tap their hands

- using their hans to tap the tops of their knees

- tapping their feet


- listening to tones that alternate between both sides of the head through headphones

- clinicians can offer online tools that will mimic bilateral stimulations during reprocessing

It is very common to "test out" the different mechanics when working with an EMDR client in order to make sure the client is comfortable. This happens whether in-person or virtual. It is also important to find the right method to ensure that the brain is being stimulated enough to produce the outcome we know EMDR therapy can.

EMDR therapy has been gaining more popularity over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic and other events that our society has faced. It makes sense that prospective clients would have a lot of questions about EMDR and have a lot of questions about virtual therapy in general. I know I speak for myself and my colleagues at Peaceful Living MHC when saying, that we are so happy that EMDR can be done virtually and that so many people are reaching out to receive help.

If you have any further questions about EMDR Therapy or virtual therapy, please check out Peaceful Living's website and blog page.

If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out for the help you deserve.


eating disorder therapist, teen therapist, disordered eating therapist, mental health counselor, Westchester, NY,  virtual therapy

Stephanie specializes in working with children, teens and adults struggling with anxiety,eating disorders, behavioral challenges, life transitions and trauma.

Stephanie uses a combination of EMDR Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Mindfulness,and in her work with clients.

Stephanie is available to take clients in NY, NJ, CT and FL.


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