How ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Got That EMDR Therapy Episode So Right
Like so many millennial doctors, I’ve spent every stage of my medical training watching Grey’s Anatomy. I was studying for biology and chemistry in college when Izzie cut Denny’s LVAD wire. I was rotating through different specialties in medical school while coping with the plane crash that killed Lexie and Mark. I watched Meredith wade through her post–Derek Shepherd existence while I went through psychiatry training.
I can’t help but watch the show pretty critically. In my work as a psychiatrist on a college campus, I’ve realized that my patients regularly pick up misconceptions of mental illness and psychiatric treatment from media like TV and movies. Perhaps that explains my excitement when mental health topics are not just portrayed in film and TV but also portrayed thoughtfully and accurately. Exhibit A: Grey’s Anatomy’s “Breathe Again” episode, which aired on October 24.
The episode centers on patient Carly Davis, who comes into the E.R. unconscious after a presumed suicide attempt. As Dr. Jo Karev sees Carly, her brow furrows. “I know her,” Jo says. Turns out Carly was one of Jo’s therapists during Jo’s stay at a residential treatment facility, which she’d checked into after struggling to come to terms with the fact that she was a product of rape (along with other traumas like growing up in foster care due to abandonment). Seeing Carly brings a lot of that trauma back for Jo. Over the course of the episode, viewers learn more about the role Carly played in Jo’s trauma treatment, breakthrough, and recovery. In doing so, we see how embedded trauma can be in our lives and how hard it can be to heal.
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