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  • Chris Duquette

Does Virtual EMDR Work?


The global pandemic forced a great many changes to our lives and the way we do nearly everything. In my own little corner of the world, the way I conduct therapy and connect with my patients changed dramatically. Like most of you, I went through a transition stage where I had to adapt what I did in the office to a virtual platform. I had concerns that EMDR, one of my favorite tools for helping people feel better, would not be as effective virtually as it was in person. With practice and some small shifts to how I worked, virtual EMDR was getting results for my patients. Virtual EMDR worked!


EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a therapy treatment that helps you access and process traumatic memories and other adverse life experiences to assist you in finding resolution and functioning better. EMDR has helped people experience less anxiety, reduced stress, sleep better, eliminate and manage depression, feel less emotional reactivity and more content.


EMDR utilizes something called bilateral stimulation to help access, process and integrate memory. There are multiple ways an EMDR therapist might utilize bilateral stimulation like moving one’s fingers in front of a client shifting their gaze back and forth in rapid progression while the client goes through a number of steps related to the memory they wish to target. Or a Huntington Beach therapist might, with permission, lightly tap a patient’ knees, shoulders or upper arms. Some Orange County EMDR therapists may also use tappers the patient holds in their hand that alternate a slight buzz.


EMDR’s bilateral movements work much the way the biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep work to help our brains integrate and store memory. The bilateral stimulation component of EMDR induces a mental state similar to REM sleep, which helps with reprocessing trauma. When in the office, I used a number of different methods of bilateral stimulation. Now virtual, I use many of the same methods I have always used.


Among my favorites, as they are easy and effective, are having patients follow my lead and cross their arms (we call this a butterfly hug) and alternately tap their upper arms. I will also have patients lightly tap their own knees in sync with me. I have also had success having clients alternate their gaze between the two upper corners of their computer or monitor, or fixed areas in their space. There are even programs/apps that can display bilateral movements via the screen.


EMDR therapy can help an individual process and integrate difficult experiences, memories and negative, limiting beliefs so that they no longer get in the way of adaptive functioning. EMDR does not erase memories in any way but rather reintegrates them in a way where they are less intense or disturbing. One benefit of virtual EMDR has been that patients can choose their own comfortable spaces to do this work, with their favorite objects, their pets, and can easily transition in and out of session. Unfortunately, for some patients, there isn’t a virtual space that feels private or safe enough.


If you have been considering EMDR therapy and live in Orange County, or anywhere in California, I am happy to share my experiences with virtual EMDR and discuss whether this might be an option for you in a no cost consultation. I am an EMDR trained Huntington Beach therapist and offer virtual EMDR Orange County to help people identify and reprocess difficult memories, beliefs or experiences that might be holding them back. If you have questions about EMDR, virtual EMDR and want to know if it might be appropriate for you, or you would like to schedule a consultation/session with a Huntington Beach EMDR therapist, please contact me at 714-474-3794 (phone/text) or cduquettehb@gmail.com



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