EMDR and Telehealth: A New Approach to Mental Health
Mental health is a critical component of general health and wellbeing and also one of the most pressing issues of our time. However, accessing mental health services can prove quite difficult for many of those who seek help.
EMDR Therapy is a type of psychological therapy which is used to resolve trauma and other disturbing life experiences. Telehealth is a method through which mental health services can be made more accessible, by using technology to provide those services remotely. EMDR Therapy is a treatment approach that uses eye movement, or other forms of bilateral stimulation, to process memories and reduce symptoms. EMDR Therapy was traditionally thought to only be delivered face-to-face, but ground breaking technology now enables people to access effective trauma treatment online.
Mental health is a complex topic. This article discusses how access to psychological therapy, including EMDR Therapy can be improved through the utilisation of telehealth.
What is Telehealth?
Telehealth is a method of delivering healthcare that uses technology to connect with patients remotely. As more technology is used in the delivery of remote healthcare we may hear the term ‘digihealth’ or digital therapeutics. These terms may include providing care and services to patients in their homes, schools, workplaces, or communities. It's a great alternative to in-person care as anyone with an internet connection can access it.
How Does Telehealth Work?
Telehealth appointments are very similar to in-person visits, just conducted online or sometimes over the phone. A few specific types of health consultations, such as physical testing or procedures, may still require a face-to-face visit. However, when seeking psychological therapy, telehealth is a fantastic option that can save you both time and money.
Telehealth for psychological therapy is beneficial in many ways. Primarily, those that have tried it often experience greater results from being able to connect with the therapist from the comfort of their own space. This also enables improved health care delivery to rural and remote communities by reducing the need for travel to see a psychotherapist.
What Is EMDR Therapy and How Does It Work?
EMDR Therapy, originally termed Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing, was developed in 1987 by Francine Shapiro. It is a type of psychological therapy that involves bilateral stimulation, which usually involves oscillating side-to-side eye movements, but may also incorporate tactile patterns or audio tones or music to treat trauma.
It is an effective treatment for reprocessing traumatic memories that enables the client to feel less distressed by the experience. The theory behind EMDR Therapy is that when a person experiences intense emotions, such as those experienced with traumatic events, that event can become locked in their memory, leading to psychological distress.
EMDR Therapists are specially trained to guide the client in recalling the traumatic event in a safe and controlled environment, while simultaneously providing bilateral stimulation so that they can process the experience and move on from it. The client focuses on several factors around the experience - the image, the thoughts and feelings that the memory evokes and then they hold all of this information in mind while receiving bilateral stimulation, which helps to shift their attention away from the traumatic event.
EMDR Therapy has proven to be an effective treatment for various mental health issues such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, and many other mental health concerns (1).
Benefits of EMDR Therapy
Effective in treating a wide range of mental health conditions, including but not limited to:
Often exhibits a more rapid treatment response than other therapeutic approaches
The client usually reports a greater sense of control over the therapeutic process
EMDR Therapy as a Treatment for PTSD
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can arise in any person, following a traumatic experience. You may have heard of PTSD referred to as ‘shell shock’, ‘battle fatigue’ or ‘combat fatigue’, as it is common following exposure to traumatic experiences which are prevalent in military combat. However, it is important to note that PTSD is not exclusive to war veterans.
PTSD can develop in response to any stressor in which the person felt their life was in danger or they felt trapped in a situation. Toxic workplace environments can cause people to develop PTSD symptoms. It’s usually the interpretation of the reason for the traumatic experience that determines if the event will be perceived as traumatic. If a person feels responsible for the experience, or they don’t feel safe or trapped by the experience, then they are more likely to develop PTSD.
There are many symptoms that contribute to a diagnosis of PTSD. Some of these may include flashbacks, nightmares, irritability and avoidance of things that remind them of the event - triggers. It can often be challenging for people with PTSD to have restful sleep or to feel like they are in control of their thoughts. As a defensive mechanism, the brain can begin to block out important parts of the traumatic event that triggered the onset of PTSD.
EMDR Therapy helps those with PTSD to process traumatic memories and experiences, allowing for a reduction in the levels of psychological distress.
How Telehealth is Revolutionising Mental Health Treatment
The use of telehealth now allows therapists to provide psychological care to clients remotely. In a post-pandemic world, almost everyone has had experience with using phone calls or video conferencing to catch up remotely with friends and family. The same technology can be used effectively to meet with your therapist!
There are many benefits to utilising telehealth - it saves time, money, and resources; while improving both access and quality of care. It also provides more privacy and confidentiality for the individual. Telehealth is used in various different ways - a common example is providing therapy sessions through video consultations with the therapist. It is easy to see why those that have experienced this, believe that telehealth will revolutionise mental health care by making it more comfortable and accessible for all.
The State of Mental Health in the Modern World
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health conditions affect one in four people worldwide (2). The top three most common mental health conditions in Australia are anxiety disorders, affective disorders and substance use disorders. Anxiety disorders are at the top of that list, affecting more than 14% of Australians each year. This is more than double the rate of depressive disorders (3).
Despite these alarming statistics, mental health remains a taboo topic. Many people are reluctant to talk about their mental health or seek help for fear of judgement or stigma. Yet, all human beings experience challenges in their lives, it’s a normal part of life. So this needs to change.
We need to open up about mental health and start treating it as the serious burden that it is. Only then can we hope to make real progress in improving mental health care and treatment for everyone.
The Future of Mental Health and Where We Stand Now
While the future of mental health care is still an area of concern due to the lack of trained mental health professionals, there are some promising perspectives on the horizon - such as the utilisation of telehealth in providing psychological care.
It is not surprising that having the ability to seek online treatment from the comfort of your own home for mental health conditions, including EMDR Therapy, has been shown to be more successful when the client is able to engage in therapy in their own safe space.
Telehealth allows EMDR Therapy to be delivered remotely, making this an ideal solution for anyone who may not have access to local mental health care, or a trained EMDR Therapist.
If you or someone you know is struggling with any form of psychological distress, consider booking a session with Therapy Online. Our team of experienced professionals can help you get the support that you need to get you on the road to recovery.
Maxfield L. A clinician's guide to the efficacy of EMDR Therapy. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research. 2019 Nov 1;13(4):239-46.
World Health Organization. The World Health Report 2001: Mental health: new understanding, new hope.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Mental health [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2020. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/mental-health