Tell us about bilateralstimulation.io
We build software & hardware that enables therapists to provide EMDR therapy online.
We went from COVID weekend project to a global market leader and are now used by over 20,000 EMDR therapists worldwide, who use our software and hardware to do millions of online therapy sessions every year.
What is EMDR therapy?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and is an evidence-based form of trauma therapy. It is used by the US military to treat veterans, by the UN to treat refugees and by over 100,000 therapists globally to treat PTSD, depression, anxiety, addictions, and other mental health disorders.
These mental health issues are often rooted in traumatic experiences, and the basic theory of EMDR is that if you desensitize and reprocess (the D and the R in EMDR) the relevant traumatic experiences directly lead to you overcoming your mental health issue.
The problem is that by default your brain is very good at pushing away traumatic memories, so during regular talk therapy, it’s often difficult to recall them. And even if you are able to recall them it’s often difficult to change your mind around what happened – our beliefs and memories are often quite rigid. So we need to put your brain into a different state, a more malleable state, a more neuroplastic state – and in that different state you can more easily recall, desensitize, and reprocess traumatic memories.
So how do we put our brain into that desired different state? What they found out works really well is something called bilateral stimulation (BLS) – stimulation left and right. There are three main forms of BLS used by EMDR therapists today:
- Visual BLS using left-right eye movements (the original form, thus the EM in EMDR)
- Auditory BLS using left-right sounds
- Tactile BLS using left-right touch or vibrations
It turns out that when you combine intervals of BLS with intervals of a highly structured form of talk therapy (the EMDR Standard Protocol) you often get to therapeutic success much quicker than with regular talk therapy – something that clinicians have been doing since the 1980s and that now has strong research support for treating PTSD and depression, with trials for other conditions underway.
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How did this all start and where are you today?
I was a patient of EMDR therapy myself and it helped me tremendously – I really couldn’t imagine where my life would be without it.
I did EMDR in person, and upon completing my therapy I pitched my former therapist on the idea – “This therapy works really amazingly, what if you were to do it online? You could be on a video chat with your patient, and then have something moving on the screen for the eye movements, sounds playing on the headphones for the auditory BLS, and maybe even a hardware device for the tactile BLS.”
Back then he dismissed it: “This sounds cool, but nobody is doing therapy online”.
One year later COVID hit – and he messaged me: “Remember this thing you pitched me? That would actually be very useful now! We’re all in lockdown and we really need something to do EMDR online with”.
So I built the initial version of the software for him, to enable him to provide EMDR online at the beginning of COVID.
I didn’t expect what happened next – the software went completely viral in the EMDR therapist community! A week after launch the website went down because it had so much traffic.
What started as a COVID side project turned into a company, and today is the industry standard for online EMDR, used by over 20,000 EMDR therapists to do millions of EMDR therapy sessions every year.
Along the way we also developed a proprietary hardware product that enables tactile EMDR over the internet.
A hardware product for online therapy? How does that work?
So we always had the visual and the auditory BLS covered through our software – but therapists kept asking us about the tactile BLS, they really missed that from their in-person practice and it was not available to them as a tool during online EMDR sessions.
We knew that this would require the development of proprietary hardware – a highly complex endeavour.
We started with a small prototype series and got amazing feedback from therapists and clients. Then we did a crowdfunding campaign, where we received over 400 preorders and extremely enthusiastic feedback from the EMDR therapist community, which gave us the validation and funds necessary to move into mass production.
What did you do before this company?
In the first phase of my career, I was working as a startup executive, where I launched new products, new markets, and new departments for some of the fastest-growing startups in Europe.
In the second phase of my career, I worked as a software engineer, building reliable, easy-to-use, scalable, and maintainable software systems for startups and scaleups.
bilateralstimulation.io is my third phase, where it all comes together. I lead our technology and product development efforts, which span product strategy and planning, technical design and architecture, project management, code review and code authoring, and other technical topics.
What was the most challenging part of building bilateralstimulation.io?
Over the course of our company’s life, we had to solve a large number of technical challenges during our software product development.
We had to make sure the software worked reliably for hundreds of thousands of users across a variety of devices and browsers – a complex software engineering endeavour.
Furthermore, we needed the hardware and software to integrate with each other seamlessly – an “Apple-like” experience, which can only be achieved via full vertical integration across hardware, firmware and software with custom designs throughout.
My software engineering background really helped me with designing and developing our technical architecture and infrastructure to scale to millions of yearly therapy sessions while maintaining reliability and ease of use.
Overall the journey has been super rewarding – it’s awesome seeing our products used and loved all over the world, it’s been a pleasure helping other entrepreneurs with our learnings and it’s heartwarming to read the many emails we receive from therapists and clients who tell us how our tools have impacted their lives by enabling them to do EMDR therapy online.