Dr Francine Shapiro Obituary 1948 – 2019
Dr Derek Farrell – President of Trauma Aid Europe & Past President of the EMDR Association UK and Ireland
EMDR Therapy was first introduced to the world in 1989 as an innovative treatment intervention for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD). To date, it is an internationally recognised, evidence-based psychological treatment endorsed by many institutions including the World Health Organisation and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, and is available on the National Health Service (NHS). EMDR Therapy’s originator was an American Psychologist called Francine Shapiro – an individual exposed to the painful realities of adverse trauma experiences in her own life, including the death of a younger sibling, and treatment for when she was diagnosed, and cured, of her own cancer.
Francine was a living example of post-traumatic growth and resilience – surviving trauma requires ‘re-invention’. She was interested in the links between physiological and psychological that contribute towards physical health. In the 1980’s Francine entered a Clinical Psychology Programme in San Diego, California. The eventual research idea for her dissertation was a chance observation:
‘One day whilst out walking I noticed some disturbing thoughts in my mind, but also noticed that my eyes were rapidly moving spontaneously back and forth in an upward diagonal. The thoughts disappeared – and yet when I brought them back into my mind their negative charge had greatly reduced.’
Fascinated by this chance discovery Shapiro went on to test this out on over 70 veterans of the Vietnam War so as to create a protocol that could be replicated to decrease anxiety. This protocol became known as Eye Movement Desensitisation (EMD). However, following the evaluation of hundreds of further cases Shapiro noticed that this approach was not just reducing anxiety, it was also helping to change thoughts and the personal meaning of trauma memories. The name of the approach was subsequently changed to Eye Movement Desensitisation & Reprocessing (EMDR). This was a major paradigm shift beyond its original purpose as a treatment for PTSD towards a brand-new psychotherapy.
Shapiro herself – an ultimate humanitarian, driven by her desire to address the global burden of psychological trauma, launched EMDR Therapy onto the international stage. Over 30 years later, EMDR Therapy is truly a global trauma treatment, playing a part in humanitarian crises, war zones, disasters areas and conflict zones. In fact, EMDR Europe is the largest trauma association in Europe – with over 22,000 members. EMDR Therapy is active in North America, Africa, South America, Asia, and the Anzacs. EMDR Therapy is making a vital contribution in trauma capacity building projects in the Middle East, including Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, the Palestinian Territories, Africa, South East Asia and beyond.
16th June 2019 witnessed the tragic death of Dr Francine Shapiro – an inspirational leader, staunch advocate for feminism and traumatised populations, empowering, compassionate humanitarian who gifted the world with an effective trauma treatment. Countless lives have been transformed by EMDR Therapy.
A remarkable woman in life, past, present and future – her legacy continues.