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Should EMDR be done at home by yourself?

How EMDR has been conducted has quickly expanded due to the coronavirus and rapid growth of telehealth. There are now many offerings for "at-home EMDR treatments"; however, clients need to proceed with caution and be fully aware of the risks before engaging in these home-based programs.

Can EMDR be done virtually?

Virtual EMDR is possible thanks to many advancements in modern technology. Read my other post on how to do EMDR virtually to learn more about the process.

Can you do EMDR by yourself?

EMDR is an effective and safe treatment for PTSD, anxiety and many other mental health diagnoses. It is possible to self-administer EMDR on yourself; however, it is not often recommended.

If you do decide to try a self-administered EMDR program, it is recommended to only do so for smaller-scale traumas, such as something "minor" that has happened in the present. I use the term "minor" loosely, since it is the client's perception of an event and their nervous system that dictates how major or minor it feels.

What are the risks of self-administered EMDR?

There are many risks involved if you do EMDR at home by yourself, including:

  • retraumatization

  • worsening symptoms of dissociation

  • intense abreactions (intense emotional experiences associated with reliving a traumatic event)

  • ineffective results

Working with a skilled EMDR therapist will help to minimize all of these risks. If you have a history of complex trauma, childhood trauma or a "Big T" trauma, such as sexual assault, combat or war experiences, a near death experience, etc., is is NOT recommended to administer EMDR by yourself at home.

An EMDR therapist will make sure to get a full history as part of the therapy (phase 1) and make sure you have adequate calming skills (phase 2) to minimize the risks listed above.

It's also important to note that the therapeutic relationship is significantly important in the efficacy of any therapy, including EMDR Therapy. So, working with a therapist whom you have a solid therapeutic rapport with is a huge factor for successful outcomes in therapy.

Remember, EMDR is more than just eye movements. It's an 8 phase process, which it what makes it such a comprehensive and effective therapy. If you do decide to use a self-administered EMDR, it can be helpful to consult with a skilled EMDR professional first to make sure there is minimal risk involved.


About the Author

Dana Carretta-Stein is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and founder of Peaceful Living Mental Health Counseling, PLLC, and Carretta Consulting in Scarsdale, NY.  She specializes in clinical psychotherapy to treat children, adolescents and adults with anxiety, behavior and trauma difficulties.

She is a certified EMDR therapist, and EMDR Approved Consultant, specializing in complex trauma and dissociation. Dana is also a business marketing coach for wellness practitioners who are looking to build and grow their private practice.


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