Laura's Note: I realize that an obituary is not typical of the type of posts we share here, but because Francine Shapiro's work has influenced and benefited so many people on this site, it seems fitting. Shapiro died in June 2019.
One spring afternoon in 1987, a psychology student trying to shake off an upsetting memory took a stroll through a park in Los Gatos, Calif., distracting herself by darting her eyes back and forth. The sting of the memory quickly faded, and the student, Francine Shapiro, glimpsed her future.
In the ensuing years she developed a popular, if controversial, therapy for trauma that has attracted devotees worldwide: eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or E.M.D.R.
“I noticed that when disturbing thoughts came into my mind, my eyes spontaneously started moving very rapidly back and forth,” Dr. Shapiro wrote in her textbook on the therapy. “The thoughts disappeared, and when I brought them back to mind, their negative charge was greatly reduced.”
Dr. Shapiro died on June 16 at a medical facility near her home in Sea Ranch, Calif., north of San Francisco. She was 71. Robbie Dunton, a longtime friend and associate, said the cause was uncertain, but she had been unwell for more than a year with respiratory and other problems, he added, and had declined suddenly.
Dr. Shapiro built the case for therapy based on eye movement one person at a time, experimenting first on herself and then on friends and colleagues. The technique she settled on, after working with some 70 people over six months, was straightforward: People would bring an upsetting memory to mind and at the same time track her fingers as she moved them back and forth, for 20 to 30 seconds.
[To read the rest of this article by Benedict Carey, click here.]
[Photo: via EMDR Institute]