Francine Shapiro (1948-2019)

From today’s obituary in The Times:

“Francine Shapiro was walking through a park in 1987 when she stumbled across the therapy that would make her name. “I realised that I was reliving some painful memories and as I did so I was moving my eyes back and forward,” she said. “When I replayed those memories, the emotional response was less powerful.”

Over the coming months she developed her ideas into what is now known as Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)…

…She was a senior research fellow at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto, California, and lived with her husband, Bob Welch, a former research psychologist for NASA who survives her, on the coast at Sea Ranch, north of San Francisco.

The jury is still out on whether Shapiro was selling snake oil or had stumbled across a legitimate cure for dealing with past traumas. Despite the many claims for EMDR, which some recipients have compared to hypnosis, even Shapiro admitted that she did not know how it worked, nor could she quantify its effectiveness.

However, many people are convinced by EMDR…The writer Patrick Strudwick described in The Times in 2010 how it had helped him to overcome the trauma of an attack in Manchester 13 years earlier. “What distinguished EMDR from other therapies – aside from the crucial eye movements – was, for me, the simple act of reliving what happened in silence,” he wrote. “Describing verbally what happened, as I’d done in conventional therapy, actually prevented me from accessing my feelings.”

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