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Francine Shapiro, developer of eye movement therapy, dies at the age of 71 years



On a spring afternoon in 1987, a psychology student took a walk through a park in Los Gatos, California, and distracted herself, moving her eyes back and forth. The engraving in the memory quickly subsided and the student Francine Shapiro divined her future.

In the following years she developed a popular but controversial therapy for trauma that has attracted adherents worldwide: desensitization and reprocessing of eye movements or EMDR

"When disturbing thoughts came to my mind, my eyes moved spontaneously very fast back and forth ", wrote Dr. Shapiro in her textbook on therapy. "The thoughts vanished and when I reminded her, her negative charge was greatly reduced."

Dr. Shapiro died on June 16 at a medical facility near her home in Sea Ranch, California, north of San Francisco. She was 71 years old. Robbie Dunton, a longtime friend and colleague, said the cause was uncertain, but she had been suffering from respiratory and other problems for more than a year, he added, suddenly declining.

Dr. Shapiro built the case for eye movement-based therapy, experimenting first with himself and then with friends and colleagues. The technique, which she had agreed to after six months of collaboration with about 70 employees, was straightforward: the staff remembered disturbing moments while simultaneously tracing their fingers as they moved them back and forth for 20 to 30 seconds. [19659002] She incorporated this technique into a variant of so-called Exposure Therapy, where people deal with painful memories and process them to dull their sharp edges, then reinterpret them through repeated reminders or exposures.

This work became her Ph.D. Thesis and 1989 the basis for an article in the Journal of Traumatic Stress.

The reception was mixed. Some therapists tested the eye movement technique and found that it helped quickly even in many people with chronic post-traumatic stress.

"At first I was skeptical," said Roger Solomon, a Washington state psychologist at the time and is now consulting with government agencies on therapy in Arlington, VA, in a telephone interview. "But I've seen her speak, started trying the technique, and found that it works."

He added, "I have EMDR to be extremely powerful, effective and efficient, and I find it effective for any mental disorder that disturbs memories."

Many other therapists were intrigued, and Dr. Shapiro stopped in Over the course of time, seminars and demonstrations have been taking place all over the world.

The scientific community was more difficult to convince The central question was whether the eye movement technique is a reliable added value for the classic exposure therapy, often alone

The studies published by Dr. Shapiro and her associates were almost all positive, with some reporting a cure rate of 80 to 100 percent in three sessions for individuals with post-traumatic symptoms following a single incident, such as a car accident or rape

Studies by outside researchers were not nearly as consistent, and one found no effect. E.M.D.R. Practitioners countered that the authors of these studies had not properly practiced the therapy. The fight had an impact on online forums and journals in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

"Many people consider E.M.D.R. Richard McNally, a trauma expert at Harvard and one of the most prominent critics of therapy, wrote in a 2000 issue of the Journal of Anxiety Disorders. "Others consider it intended to transform clinical intervention from the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder to the treatment of premature ejaculation."

One of the more difficult questions was how simple eye movements could color the emotional face of a presence as spooky and command a lifelong memory. Therapists, including dr. Shapiro, had their theories, but the science of memory was still in work and these theories had to be constantly updated.

A good answer has emerged in recent years thanks to research led by . Iris Engelhard from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. (It's not connected to the E.M.D.R. network.) When people remember a distracting visual memory, imagination routinely amplifies the image: the reds are rougher, the faces more distorted than they were when the memory was originally stored. The work of Dr. Engelhard and others have shown that the eye movements strain the working memory so much that the same disturbing memory is actually emptied and dimmed.

"I've changed my mind," Dr. McNally a telephone interview. "I'm ready for that, based on new insights, it looks like something is going on there, and the trauma seems to be repeating itself in a way that will not burden people so much later." [19659005] Hundreds of therapists made that decision years ago, and some professional associations, including the UK National Health Service, have endorsed the approach to certain types of trauma, often combined with other approaches, such as cognitive behavior or interpersonal therapies.

Let's put it this way: Since her death, I have received about 300 emails a day from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, everywhere, "said Dr. Dunton, the administrative director of the EMDR Institute," I've given up on responding to them all. "

Francine Shapiro was born in East New York, Brooklyn, on February 18, 1948, as the eldest of four children of Daniel and Shirley Shapiro, whose father was an Automechani Ker, who owned a car sharing business, and her mother ran the household. Her sister Debra died in 1965, her sister Marion 2015. She is survived by her husband Robert Welch. her brother Charles Shapiro; and a stepson, Jamie Welch.

After graduating from Brooklyn's Thomas Jefferson High School, she studied English at Brooklyn College, graduating in 1968 with a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in 1975. in the literature at New York University, when she received a breast cancer diagnosis in the early 1980s. As a result, she completed her dissertation and moved to California to study psychoimmunology, the effects of stress on immune function.

She beat the cancer, changed her career and earned her doctorate. 1988 Clinical Psychology at the Professional School of Psychological Studies, San Diego. She acquired a license to practice in California and began to build a network of therapists trained to perform eye movement therapies.

Shapiro the first edition of her textbook on the approach "desensitization and reprocessing of eye movements": basic principles, protocols and procedures. "She has written or co-authored dozens of EMDR studies and another half-dozen books, including" Getting Past Your Past "(2012), which outlines the approach to general readership.

In a recent interview published on the Careers in Psychology website, Dr. Shapiro asked her what qualities she considered important to become a successful therapist.

"Many people become therapists who feel they have all the answers, and they will be the ones to tell the client what to do," she replied. "At E.M.D.R. it is important to develop a healthy respect for the healing potential of people and to learn to be the mediator of this healing."


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