How To Do Remote EMDR From Your Home

Discover how EMDR therapy adapts to remote settings. Learn about Virtual EMDR, its effectiveness, and essential tools for conducting EMDR at home.

08 Feb 2024


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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapeutic approach for alleviating distress linked to PTSD and a range of other psychological conditions. In the past, this powerfully effective treatment was conducted in person with a therapist, typically using a T-shaped device called a "light bar.”

However, recent technological advances and the increasing need for accessible mental health care have extended this impactful therapy to home computers and devices.

With these developments, many clients and practitioners are now wondering: Is it possible to do EMDR virtually?

Let's explore.

The Rise of Remote EMDR

In 2022, the World Health Organization announced a global increase in anxiety and depression, estimated at 25%. With limited access to traditional mental health services due to COVID-19 lockdowns, digital tools, including teletherapy and mobile health applications, emerged as accessible solutions to bridge the gap, prompting a global shift toward remote therapy.

Among the many treatments shifting to a virtual mode, EMDR as a psychotherapy became recognized as an accessible and affordable option, and advancements in this modality continue to roll out. There is now an increasing emergence of self-guided EMDR programs that enable users to undertake the therapy anytime they want, without needing to wait for an appointment with a therapist.

How Can EMDR Be Done From Home?

Today, at-home EMDR is carried out in five simple steps that mirror the process used by professional therapists:

Preparation: You’ll begin by choosing a unique treatment program known as a protocol. At Virtual EMDR, we offer seven protocols, each tailored to address problems commonly treated with EMDR therapy (e.g., PTSD, depression, addiction).

Target Selection: Next, you’ll be guided through a series of prompts to select a target problem or issue you want to overcome. Targets can include any internal experiences causing you emotional pain, such as disturbing memories, negative thoughts, or feelings of shame.

Desensitization: You’ll track a moving object back and forth across your screen (and listen to tones alternating between each ear) while holding your target in your mind. This process, known as “bilateral stimulation,” will work to desensitize you to the emotional impact of your chosen target.

Installation: After desensitizing your negative emotions, you’ll install some positive beliefs to replace the negative beliefs related to your target. You’ll then repeat the eye-tracking process for between 2-10 minutes to install these more empowering beliefs.

Closing: Your at-home EMDR session will conclude with a simple grounding exercise to bring you back to a calm state of mind before you resume your day. At Virtual EMDR, this takes the form of a simple, two-minute breathing exercise.

Doing EMDR from home is simple and made easier by the emergence of new online technologies, such as Virtual EMDR’s Eye Movement Tool. These virtual tools work directly within your web browser, eliminating the need to purchase specialized EMDR equipment, such as lightbars.

Importantly, the treatment process itself mirrors the same eight-step process conducted in person with therapists, ensuring you receive the same benefits at greater convenience and reduced cost compared to in-person sessions.

Setting Up for Remote EMDR

Setting up for a Virtual EMDR session is simple. All you need is a stable internet connection; a computer, tablet, or smartphone; and headphones or earphones for listening to the bilateral audio tones.

To create an environment conducive to focused therapy, set up your technology somewhere you won't be disturbed for at least 40 minutes.

It’s best to optimize your setup by using a computer with a large screen at eye level. However, if you choose to complete your session using a smartphone or small tablet, you can close your eyes and focus on the back-and-forth audio tones only.

Effectiveness of Doing EMDR Virtually

Increasing research indicates that Virtual EMDR is comparably effective to in-person sessions in alleviating emotional discomfort and processing painful experiences.

A recent review published in Frontiers in Psychiatry investigated 16 studies on remote EMDR, revealing its efficacy in reducing symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety, and emotional disturbance. Notably, improvements were on par with face-to-face EMDR, suggesting that the therapy's benefits extend even without in-person sessions.

Ongoing research further supports the advantages of self-guided EMDR. Two studies examined by the researchers showcased significant psychological improvements while also offering convenience and timeliness for those facing challenges.

In the words of one Virtual EMDR user: “With Virtual EMDR, any time my trauma symptoms pop up, I can just go instantly and address them. I feel like it is a lot more effective, because I can stay ‘in the moment’ with my emotions and work with them as soon as they come up.” — Sarah W. (Atlanta, GA)

Challenges and Solutions in Remote EMDR

Navigating Virtual EMDR sessions comes with its own set of challenges, but most can be overcome with the proper planning and support. For one, EMDR can bring up intense emotions. This emotional intensity can be heightened without in-person support.

To help, make sure you set up your Virtual EMDR session in a location where you can feel comfortable expressing emotion (e.g., crying). Be sure to keep some tissues nearby. Practice self-compassion by acknowledging that challenges can further enhance the effectiveness of Virtual EMDR sessions.

If at any point you begin to feel emotionally overwhelmed during a session, consider pausing and using a grounding technique to calm and recenter yourself. This could include taking some slow breaths or going for a short walk.

It’s also sometimes the case that a single session of Virtual EMDR isn’t enough to entirely ease your emotional distress. Many emotional issues will require more than one Virtual EMDR session to resolve, especially if they are complex or long-standing.

In this situation, avoid doing back-to-back sessions of Virtual EMDR. Instead, allow your emotions to subside fully before starting a new session. By ensuring sufficient rest time between sessions, you’ll better absorb the benefits of the treatment.

Best Practices for Practitioners and Clients

If you’re a therapist looking to conduct online EMDR sessions, here are some useful recommendations to ensure your sessions go smoothly. Do a test session with a friend or colleague to gain familiarity with the Virtual EMDR platform.

Conduct an initial screening to check your client’s suitability for a remote EMDR protocol and educate them about the process. Send calendar invites and any required links to clients ahead of time to ensure a timely start to each session.

Likewise, if you’re a client looking to maximize the benefits of remote EMDR, consider the following tips: Ensure you have a stable internet connection and a back-up on hand (e.g., mobile hotspot) in case of connectivity issues.

Close any irrelevant windows and switch your device to “Do Not Disturb” to help you stay focused on the eye-tracking software. Take time for post-session self-care, reflecting on the experience and engaging in activities that promote relaxation and emotional processing.


Even if you’ve never done EMDR before, Virtual EMDR makes the process simple and easy. Better yet, unlimited access to our self-guided EMDR platform costs less than a single therapy session per month and is available any time you experience symptoms or distress.

Although remote EMDR is backed by science, it’s important to know that everyone responds differently to varying treatment methods. It’s therefore recommended you meet with a certified EMDR therapist before beginning self-guided sessions to ensure they’ll be suitable for your needs.

Ready to break free from emotional pain? Start your healing journey today at

FAQs If you do EMDR virtually, is it as Effective as In-Person Therapy?

An increasing number of studies are finding that EMDR administered remotely by a therapist can be just as effective as in-person therapy for reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.

Can Anyone Try EMDR Therapy at Home?

In general, at-home EMDR can be suitable for people suffering from any of the following conditions: PTSD or trauma, anxiety, depression, addiction, grief and loss, phobias and fears. We’ve found that 9 out of 10 people feel an improvement in their emotional state when doing self-administered, Virtual EMDR sessions.

However, if you experience dissociation or feel unequipped to handle emotions that may arise during your sessions, consider working with a trained therapist who can support you. You can find a qualified remote EMDR therapist in our Therapist Network.

What Should I Expect During My First Remote EMDR Session?

During your first EMDR session, it is common to experience physical sensations in your body; fluctuations in your emotions; images connected to a target memory; other connected memories; and/or, conversations between past and present versions of yourself.

It’s important to note that while these experiences are common, the absence of these changes does not necessarily indicate that the therapy is ineffective. People have diverse responses to EMDR. The key thing is to maintain an open and receptive attitude toward any emerging thoughts, feelings, or sensations throughout the process.

How Can I Maximize the Benefits of Virtual EMDR from Home?

There are a range of pre-and-post session routines you can use to help maximize the benefits of Virtual EMDR: Try setting aside time before each session to reflect on current emotions, challenges, and goals.

Make a habit of journaling or practicing relaxation exercises after each session to process and integrate any insights you’ve gained. Establish a support network, whether it's friends, family, or a therapist, to discuss and process emotions outside of the virtual sessions.

Also remember that consistency is key. Try to practice your Virtual EMDR sessions regularly (e.g., 1-2 times per week) to build momentum and address ongoing emotional challenges.


Kaptan, S. K., Kaya, Z., & Akan, A. (2024). Addressing mental health need after COVID-19: A systematic review of remote EMDR therapy studies as an emerging option. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 14, 1336569.

World Health Organization. (2022, March 2). COVID-19 pandemic triggers 25% increase in prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide [Press release].

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