What Is EMDR Therapy?

Perhaps you’ve heard about EMDR therapy. But what is EMDR therapy exactly? Maybe you’ve heard that you move your eyes around a bunch. Maybe you’ve heard it’s risky because you’ll discover trauma you didn’t even know you experienced. Yikes!

As the owner of Guided Wellness Counseling I had the most amazing opportunity to be interviewed on the Above Ground podcast. An entire episode all about EMDR! What followed was a fun, candid and radically honest conversation about trauma therapy, EMDR therapy and overcoming depression, anxiety and trauma / PTSD. Today’s blog offers you just a few highlights from the podcast as we go more in depth about what EMDR therapy is and is not.

Woman reading book with coffee on bedHow Does EMDR Therapy Work?

First and foremost, know that EMDR is in some ways much like any other therapy. For example, your first session will begin with an intake appointment. What can you expect during your first therapy session intake? The intake appointment is a big getting-to-know-you. You’ll discuss what brings you into therapy, your family history, trauma history, medications or health concerns and more.

The better your therapist knows you and all about your life the better prepared they will be able to focus your therapy sessions and guide you towards healing. Further, they need to make a decision about if EMDR is right for you, how to apply it to your healing and at what pace you’ll move forward.

If you and your therapist decide that EMDR is right for you you’ll receive an education on how EMDR works and what you can expect moving forward. Technically speaking, in EMDR we refer to this as “Phase 2 – Preparation.” So rest assured, you’ll be well prepared to engage in your EMDR therapy sessions.

With that in mind, through a series of questions, you and your therapist will agree to work on a specific target or issue. A target might be the anxiety you have as a result of childhood sexual abuse. A different target might be the stress you have in relationships since your faith crisis. A thirst target might be the grief and loss you’ve been unable to release since the death of a loved one, miscarriage / infant loss, divorce or so much more. Then as you focus on that target your therapist will guide you through an exercise of moving your eyes left and right. As you move your eyes you’ll pay attention to your thoughts, feelings and body sensations.

How Does EMDR Help?

Let’s talk about why your therapist is having you do these back-and-forth eye movements? Why do they help? Is EMDR hypnosis or magic?

First of all, EMDR is not hypnosis or magic. In EMDR we do eye movements back and forth to mimic the same movements your body experiences during REM sleep – that really deep restorative sleep we all desire. What we can gather from research is that when we are in REM sleep we are consolidating our memories. In other words, we are releasing what we no longer need to remember and filing in our memories banks the critical information we need to keep.

The problem with trauma / PTSD, anxiety and depression is that our brain can get confused about what memories / thoughts, emotions or body sensations to hold on to and what to release. Many of our clients who’ve experienced trauma report that they can’t stop thinking about what happened to them. Or their body won’t let go of the fear and panic. Our clients with depression, anxiety or codependency report being preoccupied with thoughts that “I’m not good enough” or “I’m not lovable… I’m not worthy…” It’s like their brain permanently glued these messages, fears, emotions and body sensations right to the front of their mind!

The eye movements your therapist will support you through will organically help you connect the dots between these messages, fears, emotions and body sensations. As they connect and you begin to make sense of them or reach new conclusions (i.e. I am loveable. I am safe) you find relief from your depression, anxiety and PTSD / trauma.

Is EMDR Dangerous?

The simple answer is no. When you are:

  1. In a collaborative relationship with your skilled professional therapist
  2. You feel seen, heard and understood by them
  3. And you are confident in using skills to manage your stress

EMDR is not dangerous.

But this is a popular question and I think it comes from two places. The first is that some people worry they will discover a trauma they didn’t know had happened to them. My answer to this concern is that this rarely happens. More often, we begin to recall things that we simply have been avoiding or haven’t thought or felt deeply about in some time. We may have even, in the past, dissociated from abuse and it can be heartbreaking to wake up or come back into your body after having not felt the reality of what happened to you.

But this is what therapy is for. It’s a safe place to feel feelings. To say hard things. To talk about topics that are not popular in your culture or family. To curse like a sailor. To cry. To be mad at the world. To take responsibility for your healing and how you’ll move forward.

Know that in EMDR you set the pace with your therapist. You can stop whenever you need a break or want to change gears. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. And you don’t have to talk about anything before you’re ready. This all helps to make it a safe option for many, many survivors of PTSD and trauma survivors.

EMDR Therapy Near Me | St. George UT | Washington UT

As you might have gathered from this blog, EMDR is a collaborative process between you and your therapist. With any therapy and counseling journey it’s critical that you feel seen and respected by your counselor. This is true whether you are doing EMDR therapy or not. Many of our clients who are working to overcome depression, anxiety and trauma call it the “get me” feeling, as in “I feel like my therapist gets me.”

How do you find a counselor for EMDR therapy near me? At Guided Wellness Counseling you start with a complimentary phone consultation. Not all offices offer this but we believe it’s critical to getting you set up right. During your phone consultation our office manager will ask a few questions to learn about why you are interested in counseling: depression, codependency, anxiety, overwhelm, PTSD / trauma, etc.

Next, she’ll match you with the right therapist for your needs and goals. Most of our clinicians at Guided Wellness in St. George, Utah are trained in EMDR and can guide you through the process – it’s our specialty and we love being the premier office for women’s mental and emotional health in Southern Utah. After you’ve found a day and time that works for you we’ll book your intake appointment.

Last, we minimize any risk of down time or delayed results. The fact is, most clients who attend therapy regularly and consistently get better results faster. It’s like going to the gym – attending once in a while isn’t bad for you… but you won’t see much progress. This is why we’ll offer to pre-book your next 4 appointments so there is never a delay in your sessions and you have one less thing to worry about in your busy schedule.

Are you ready to learn more? You can begin your complimentary consultation by simply calling or texting (435)767-1424 now or you can book a consultation ahead of time using our online scheduling calendar. Let us know if you have any questions and have all your questions answered so you can begin moving towards the adventurous life you deserve.


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Guided Wellness Counseling

Healing Depression, Anxiety, and Trauma in St. George and all of Southern Utah.

EMDR Therapy and EMDR Consultation Services.

720 South River Road Suite E 103, St. George, UT 84790