Criminal Minds: 5/8/13 Episode re the FBI and EMDR

Note:  EMDR stands for “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.”  The prestigious “Cochrane Review” (of all medical research) recommends that all PTSD sufferers be offered either EMDR or CBT.

I got the email below from an EMDR client of mine just after she watched “Criminal Minds.”  She gave permission to share it.

“Watching an episode of Criminal Minds on CBS tonight, and in this episode, the FBI agents talked about the use of EMDR in treating PTSD. And the FBI used EMDR to talk to a traumatized witness. Very cool!”  ST, San Diego

A second client of mine who is also an EMDR therapist shared some comments from the EMDR discussion list she follows (I follow another, as I only have time for one list).  She, too, gave permission to share the gist of the messages.

EMDR therapists were happy that EMDR is getting such a large exposure to millions (through both the trailer for the show, and the show itself), but were concerned that the episode said that the FBI was using EMDR for memory retrieval.  This is not actually accurate (though our EMDR discussants did allow that the show is fiction and the writers may have used artistic license) and they were a bit worried that people would get the wrong impression.

Let me take this opportunity to correct the impression a bit.

EMDR does help when the brain is having difficulty with traumatic events, storing them dysfunctionally, often with high agitation (leading to flashbacks and/or nightmares and other disruptive symptoms), sometimes deep in the unconscious to be released when the client is strong enough to handle them. EMDR helps to “digest”or “desensitize” those memories so they can be stored in a functional way:  calmed, with positive conclusions about self.  What might those conclusions be?  Common positive beliefs are:  “I did the best I could,” “I have intelligence, power, or choices now”; or “I survived and it’s over now.”

What EMDR seems to do is tap into a great capacity for health that our brains, and our selves have been blessed with.  EMDR’s developer and first researcher, Francine Shapiro, PhD calls it the “Adaptive Information Processing” (AIP) system of the brain.  We EMDR therapists experience the wonder of witnessing this “blossom” in our clients.  I love that people spontaneously come up with beautiful positive thoughts about themselves, once the negative or traumatic events have been cleared with EMDR.

It has never been used for any kind of a forceful memory retrieval method.  This would not cooperate with the AIP system, and thus, I don’t believe it would work.

My personal view of the AIP system is that it is our souls.  Our souls have all the wisdom to know when we are ready to deal with a painful past, and when we need to wait till we are ready. When our trauma is released effectively, I often witness a spiritual truths coming out of my clients, whether it is in their words or their actions.  They are amazed at some of the new behaviors they are able to do spontaneously!

EMDR therapists highly respect the AIP system, and would not support any forceful use of EMDR.  It has always been a “client centered” approach, highly respectful and protective of the clients goals, needs and capacities.

As a group, we EMDR therapists are very grateful for the good exposure of the Criminal Minds episode of 5/8/13, and welcome the opportunity to correct any misconceptions.

If you would like more information about EMDR, the educational Home Page and Articles Section of is a good resource.  Please use the link below in bold:

EMDR Education on

If you have a appetite for reading more about EMDR, try “Getting Past Your Past” by Dr. Shapiro.  It is a very readable self-help book, that gives you tips you can use on your own, and directions for when to seek an EMDR therapist.  If you want to do that, I recommend EMDRIA-Certified EMDR therapists, which you can easily find on the above website.

Thank you, “Criminal Minds” for sharing such a valuable, research-validated treatment with all your viewers!


2 thoughts on “Criminal Minds: 5/8/13 Episode re the FBI and EMDR

  1. Dana Terrell Post author

    You are most welcome, Jeff! Thank you for your support of getting the word out about EMDR.
    We are working hard to bring it to widespread public knowledge, so people don’t need to lose
    weeks, months or years of their lives to PTSD.


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