By Mary Jo McHaney, LMHC

Doing EMDR virtually…It does not have to be complicated. This was perfectly demonstrated to me this week when the logistics/technology of one of my virtual sessions went off the rails.  My camera on my computer quit working so that I could see my client but he couldn’t see me. My client was using his cell phone, which is less than ideal. Yet, because we had already established good communication and trust in our working relationship, and because the client had demonstrated his ability to stay within the window of tolerance in past processing sessions, we decided to jump into processing in spite of the technological challenges.

I invited the client to pick out two spots on the wall and to use them as anchors. I then had the client move his eyes between them as rapidly as he could comfortably tolerate. We used this process as our BLS/DAS, with me saying “start” and “pause” for each set. The rest was our standard phases three, four, five, six, and seven. Because the client was looking slightly up at the spots on the wall, it was effortless for me to track his eye movements and shifts in affective states. So even though he never could see me, and I was watching him on his cell phone, the session went magically well! 0-7-clear by the end of our time together.

Virtual safety standards should always be followed when using telehealth to deliver EMDR Therapy; we need to be aware of our client’s ability to navigate online platforms and should have a backup plan in place in case of technology failure or client overwhelm. But we don’t necessarily need all the bells and whistles of some of those amazing bilateral apps out there in order to practice EMDR online. We simply need to be attuned and collaborative with our clients.  The magic still happens. Go with that!

Mary Jo McHaney is a therapist, EMDRIA- Approved Consultant,  EMDR Basic Training Facilitator, and Trainer in Training. She is also an EMDR R-TEP/G-TEP Trainer and Facilitator. Mary Jo is a Qualified Supervisor for the State of Florida, a Certified Addictions Professional, and a Certified Adoptions Competency Therapist. She also sits on the Board of Directors as Vice Chair for Federation of Families of Central Florida, a not-for-profit that empowers, educates, and advocates for families with children who have mental health challenges. Connect is fortunate to have her on the team, where we are constantly noticing the warm, wise energy she brings to every training and consultation. Learn more about Mary Jo and the rest of our team.