A spring dinner in 1987, a psychology student who tried to shake off an outrageous memory shot a walk through a park in Los Gatos, California, which distracted by tilting their eyes back and forth. The memory quickly went out, and student Francine Shapiro glimpsed her future.
In the following years, she developed a popular, controversial therapy for trauma that has attracted devotees all over the world: eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR
"I noticed that when I disturbed thoughts came in my mind, my eyes began to spontaneously moving very fast back and forth, "wrote Shapiro in his textbook on the therapy. "Thoughts disappeared, and when I took them into consideration, their negative charge dropped sharply."
Dr. Shapiro built the case for therapy based on eye movement one person at a time, experimenting first for himself and then for friends and colleagues. The technique that she settled on, after working with about 70 people over six months, was straightforward: People would give an immersive memory in mind while tracking their fingers as she moved them back and forth for 20 to 30 seconds. 19659002] She integrated this technique into a variant of what is called exposure therapy, where people engage and process painful memories in an effort to tie their sharp edges and then interpret them by repeated memory or exposure.
This work became her doctoral thesis and in 1989, the foundation of an article in Journal of Traumatic Stress.
The reception was mixed. Some therapists tried the eye movement technique and found that it helped, and quickly, even for many people with chronic post-traumatic stress.
"I was skeptical first," Roger Solomon, the psychologist of the Washington State Patrol at that time, and now consulting authorities on the therapy at Arlington, Va., Sa in a phone call. "But I went to see her speak, started trying the technology and found that it was working."
He added: "I have found E.M.D.R. to be extremely powerful, effective and efficient, and I find it effective for all mental disorders that cause disturbing memories."
Many other therapists were fascinated and Dr. Shapiro began giving seminars and demonstrations around the country and, worldwide.
The scientific community was more difficult to persuade. The key issue was whether eye movement technology reliably adds value to classical exposure treatment, which is often effective in itself.
Studies published by Dr. Shapiro and her allies were almost all positive. several reported an 80 to 100 percent cure rate in three sessions for people with post-traumatic symptoms from a single incident, such as a car crash or rape.
Studies by outside researchers were not so consistent, and some found no supplemental effect. E.M.D.R. practitioners prevented the authors of these studies from exercising properly. The fight was boiled over in the late 1990s and early 2000s to online forums and academic journals.
"Many consider E.M.D.R as just one of the many therapeutic fuzz balls that crush the landscape of psychology today," Richard McNally, a trauma expert at Harvard and one of the most prominent critics of the therapy, wrote in a 2000 issue of the Journal of Anxiety Disorders. "Others believe that it is intended to convert clinical intervention, from the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder to the treatment of premature ejaculation."
One of the sticky questions was how simple eye movements could color the emotional face of a ghostlike presence and order as a lifelong memory. Therapists, including Dr. Shapiro, had their theories, but memory science has continued work, and these theories need continuous updating.
A good answer has emerged in recent years thanks to research led by Iris Engelhard from Utrecht University in the Netherlands. (She is not associated with the E.M.D.R. network.) When people recall a disturbing visual memory, their imagination routinely reinforces the image: The red is harder, faces are more constricted than they were when the memory was originally stored. The work of Dr. Engelhard and others have shown that eye movements tax work memory to such an extent that the same troubled memory is actually deflated and dimmed.
"I changed myself," said Dr. McNally in a telephone interview. "I am willing to do so based on new evidence. It seems that something happens there; The representation of the trauma seems to be reconsolidated in a way that does not disturb people as much as they are later recalled."
Hundreds of therapists made the decision for several Years ago, and some professional organizations, including the UK's National Health Service, have approved the approach to specific types of trauma, often combined with other approaches, such as cognitive behavior or interpersonal therapies.
"Put it like this: Since she died, I have received about 300 emails a day, from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, everywhere," says Dr. Dunton, Administrative Director of the EMDR Institute. "I've given up to try to answer them all."
Francine Shapiro was born in the East New York area of Brooklyn on February 18, 1948, the oldest of four children by Daniel and Shirley Shapiro. Her father was a car mechanic who owned a car dealership, and her mother ran the household. Her sister Debra died in 1965, her sister Marion in 2015. She is survived by her husband, Robert Welch; her brother, Charles Shapiro; and a stick sofa, Jamie Welch.
After graduating from Thomas Jefferson in Brooklyn, she studied English at Brooklyn College, graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1968 and completed a master in 1975. She was close to completing a Ph.D. . in literature at New York University when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in the early 1980s. It led her to lay aside her thesis and move to California to study psycho-immunology, the effect of stress on immune function.
She beat cancer, changed career and received doctoral thesis. in clinical psychology 1988 from the Professional School of Psychological Studies, in San Diego. She acquired a license to train in California and began building a network of therapists who trained to perform eye movement.
In 1995, Dr. Shapiro's first edition of her textbook on the "Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Procedure: Principles, Protocols and Procedures." She wrote or co-wrote dozens of studies by EMDR and half a dozen books, including "Getting Past Your Past" (2012) which describes the location of public readers.
In a new interview with the Careers in Psychology website, Dr. Shapiro asked 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 who tell the customer what to do," she replied. "With E.M.D.R. it is important to develop a healthy respect for human healing potential and to learn how to facilitate this healing."