Dr. Shapiro is a Senior Research Fellow Emeritus at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto, California. She is the Executive Director of the EMDR Institute in Watsonville, CA, and founder and President Emeritus of the EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Program, which is a non-profit organization that coordinates disaster response and training for others in the trauma field worldwide.
She is a recipient of the International Sigmund Freud Award for distinguished contribution to psychotherapy, presented by the City of Vienna in conjunction with the World Council. Dr. Shapiro was awarded the American Psychological Association Trauma Division Award for Outstanding Contributions to Practice in Trauma Psychology. And, she is the recipient of the Distinguished Scientific Achievement in Psychology Award, presented by the California Psychological Association.
Shapiro has written and co-authored numerous articles, chapters, and books about EMDR. Her list of writing achievements include:
In 1987, Dr. Shapiro made the chance observation that eye movements can reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts, under certain conditions. She then studied this effect scientifically. In 1989, she reported success using EMDR to treat victims of trauma in the Journal of Traumatic Stress. (http://www.essentia.fr/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Shapiro_EMD_new_tx_for_PTSD.pdf).
Since then, EMDR has developed and evolved through the contributions of therapists and researchers from all over the world. It is considered an integrative psychotherapy approach and has been extensively researched. EMDR is proven effective for the treatment of PTSD and many other mental health problems.
Today, EMDR treatment is practiced through a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches. To date, EMDR therapy has helped millions of people of all ages relieve many types of psychological distress.
The goal of EMDR therapy is to assist a client with PTSD through complete processing of the memories of her traumatic experience that are causing emotional issues. A second goal of EMDR treatment is to include new expressions of traumatic experience. This process encourages a natural re-framing of trauma memories, into more positive and constructive references in the mind. This promotes a fuller return to homeostasis in the body, improving overall general health and well-being.
Unlike other therapies used in trauma treatment, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or Talk Therapy, processing of trauma memories using EMDR does not necessarily include talking about the experience with the therapist. One of the down-sides of talk-therapy lies in the evidence shown in studies that suggest re-telling our trauma stories, creates an experience of reliving the experience of trauma in the body. By activating fight-or-flight through repeated story-telling, the fear response connected with the traumatic experience floods body systems with stress chemistry. It is thought that in the long-term, such reactivation of fight-or-flight actually can impede recovery, With talk therapy alone (some suggest) this can be further debilitating to a trauma survivor, making recovery from the experience often far more difficult.
With EMDR, processing means setting up a learning state that will allow those experiences that are causing problems to be redefined and stored appropriately as past memories in the brain. This means that what is useful to us from a traumatizing experience will be learned and stored with appropriate emotions in your brain. These positively framed experiences can then be available with recall to guide us in positive ways through life in the future. Through treatment with EMDR, the more negative emotions, beliefs, and body sensations of the trauma experience will be discarded.
Negative emotions, feelings and behaviors are generally caused by unresolved earlier experiences that are pushing a trauma survivor in the wrong direction. Childhood experiences can remain problematic for us in later life. These experiences are often related to the very common experience of dysfunctional upbringings related to codependency, for example. The goal of EMDR therapy is to leave a client with the emotions, understanding, and perspectives that are helpful, experiences and memories that will lead to healthy and useful behaviors and interactions, moving forward again towards healthy living.
With so many military personnel now home from their experience of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, we are hearing more often of the ravages of PTSD. Unlike in previous conflicts, we now have a much richer understanding of trauma than in any other time in military history. Soldiers today are more willing to express the emotional pain and suffering created through their inner-wounding in battle. We’ve now seen a dramatic increase in understanding of trauma-related conditions than ever before.
With the advent of treatments such as EMDR, victims of abuse, soldiers, police officers, paramedics and others who have lived life-experiences of trauma, along with people from all walks of trauma experience now have access to cutting-edge, rapid repair of trauma-inflicted damage. Wounding that in the past had little hope in terms of prognosis now, with treatments such as this, have potential for trauma survivors to experience more helpful outcomes. We are blessed with perhaps the experience of a full return to life when we're granted treatments that fit. If nothing else, EMDR can effectively restore quality living to a place whereby symptoms are more easily managed, in my experience with the treatment.
PTSD is sometimes the result of inappropriate care being applied to a trauma survivor. I've personally experienced and heard far too many stories of inadvertent additional harm coming to a trauma survivor through inappropriately managed treatments. Because we feel the stigma of mental illness, as stated in an earlier post, stigma issues, combined with the already present symptoms of PTSD in which we tend to avoid reminders of trauma, far too many survivors suffer in silence.
This issue, combined with perhaps a set of damaging attitudes and beliefs, keeps far to many from accessing treatment. Most effective treatment is delivered to a victim of trauma in a timely manner. Additional wounding and unnecessary additional harm can be the tragic outcome in this delay. The most tragic outcome imaginable is suicide. This happens far to often to others for my own soul to handle sometimes still.
In professions where the risk of trauma and PTSD is higher, employers in these industries still choose to ignore the potential risk to their workforce, unfortunately. Focusing instead on limiting liability to the organizations they represent, many fine human beings, stricken with trauma and PTSD in employment are discarded in ignorance.
Denial is a demon in human life that keeps us from addressing appropriately many such issues, common to our collective humanity. Another heartbreaking and tragic reality of the far too fragile human condition we must all, I believe, take far more seriously than we currently choose to do.
We aren’t doing ourselves as a society any favours continuing to ignore the after-effects of traumatic life-experience. We’ve all heard stories of the abandonment of our soldiers coming home traumatized and of First Responders as well who often face additional trauma when they find themselves no longer able to perform the duties of their chosen career. The most tragic outcome imaginable for anyone living with PTSD, often plays itself out for us in news stories of suicide. As I shared earlier, this breaks my empathic heart still, every time it happens.
Our societies need to consider accepting greater responsibility in the provision of care of those who have stood for our defense. Or, for those who have diligently provided service to us in our homes and streets in our own darkest hours of human need.
For treatments such as EMDR to be most effective, timely access to treatment must be our primary concern when trauma invades human life. By creating awareness of the realities of psychological trauma and the value of effective treatments, such as Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing we are generating, today, some hope.
Over time, I believe we can reverse the tide in trauma treatment, worldwide. Thanks to the work of Dr. Francine Shapiro and others, with their work now fully supported, a life-experience of trauma no longer needs to be felt as a life-sentence for it’s victims.
I encourage you to study EMDR and Francine Shapiro. Research supports that EMDR is effective in exorcising the demon - the dragon in many of our lives we call, PTSD. To find a therapist trained in delivery of EMDR into your treatment program, please visit, EMDR International.
Internet Resource: National Defense and the Canadian Armed Forces: Mental Health Resources: 2014.
Internet Resource: EMDR Canada: 2014 (http://emdrcanada.org/)
Internet Resource: Canadian Mental Health Association: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: 2014: (http://www.cmha.ca/mental_health/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/#.U54BuyiFk-A).
Shapiro, Francine, PhD: “Getting Past Your Past: Taking Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy”: Rosedale Books: 2010.
Shapiro, Francine, PhD: “Eye Movement Desensitization: A New Treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”: Brhav. Thhrr. & Erp. Psychmr. Vol.10.No.3.pp 1-217.1989 Printed in Great Britain: (http://www.essentia.fr/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Shapiro_EMD_new_tx_for_PTSD.pdf).
Disclaimer: These materials and resources are presented for educational purposes only. They are not a substitute for informed medical advice or training. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified health or mental health care provider. If you have concerns, contact your health care provider, mental health professional, or your community health center
Darren Gregory © 2014: All Rights Reserved