Imaginary crimes: Resolving survivor guilt and writer's block


A 45-year old female professor of creative writing complained of depression, obsessing about an ex-boyfriend, and a writing block. She is in ongoing but episodic treatment within the framework of a psychodymanic model, specifically Control Mastery Theory, utilizing EMDR as an exploratory tool and treatment method. Issues of survivor guilt toward her murdered sister, identification with her anxious, unhappy mother, and compliance with her critical and rejecting father were addressed and at least partially worked through in the first 11 sessions (reported here). Her depression has lifted, she has been able to write freely for the first time in ten years, and has stopped obsessing about her ex-boyfriend. The therapist was able to combine CMT and EMDR to create a rapid but deep exploration and amelioration of the client's major, longstanding life problems.


Book Section




Lewis Engel

Original Work Citation

Engel, L. (1998). Imaginary crimes: Resolving survivor guilt and writer's block. In P. Manfield (Ed.), Extending EMDR: A casebook of innovative applications (1st ed.) (pp. 138-163). New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Co



“Imaginary crimes: Resolving survivor guilt and writer's block,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed October 18, 2021,

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