When the groundbreaking psychologist who created EMDR therapy left us in June, she left behind not only a revolutionary method of psychotherapy, but the ongoing inspiration to give our best through research and dedication.
It was like any other Tuesday. I was on my lunch break, in between clients, standing in a café waiting to pick up my order. Scrolling through email on my phone, one particular subject line caught my eye: “Mourning Francine Shapiro.”
She can’t have passed away, I thought.
Then as I opened the email my heart sank further. I couldn’t believe I was reading of Francine Shapiro’s passing. As a pioneer in the field of mental health through the creation of her groundbreaking EMDR therapy, this insightful, intelligent, forward-thinking woman has made an impact, to better the lives of so many, including mine.
My first encounter with Francine took place years ago, back when I’d only heard bits and pieces about what EMDR therapy is and does during my exposure to several different treatment orientations. Among them, “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing” barely registered on my radar. In fact, I recall rolling my eyes during an EMDR presentation as a student.
That changed a few years later. After grad school, I attended the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference. I was interested in learning about a particular approach, but after sitting disappointedly through a weak presentation I decided to go to Francine Shapiro’s just down the hall. I peeked through the door, seats were available, and I thought, “Why not?”
As Francine went through various diagnoses throughout the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, presenting the quality of research I’d missed during the lecture I’d just left, I was struck by how genuine she was. She was straightforward, practical and not at all about ego. I immediately got the impression she didn’t believe she was better than anyone else (in contrast to many of her peers), she didn’t have to; her confidence was borne by fact. She knew the proof of her findings was in the pudding.
Now, years later, I know not only how EMDR works, but how it’s worked for me. Like many, I’ve been through some *stuff*. I was someone who dealt with long-standing trauma since the age of five. And while I’d experienced a wide range of therapies, some more helpful than others, nothing seemed as promising as what Francine Shapiro and her revolutionary new approach presented. I wondered, “Can EMDR help me?”
Doing the work
I went to the EMDRIA database, to find out what the therapy’s international association could offer (which is a lot). I found an EMDR therapist near me and decided to go for sessions. I’d been dealing with a romantic breakup at the time, and not very well.
The therapist told me that most people can get past a breakup in three reprocessing sessions. Together, we did one reprocessing session per month and at the end of three months, I actually felt “over” the breakup. Grateful as I was, I still had my doubts: Maybe I didn’t really love the guy…maybe three months was all I needed to grieve…
I wasn’t dissuaded, but I wasn’t quite convinced, either, that this was a top-tier approach to therapy. And even though I knew I had a lot of underlying trauma, I still didn’t feel ready to do the work. I met with the therapist for three more months when I was at a coffee shop one day and something triggered me. The PTSD which had dogged me for years suddenly resurfaced.
My symptoms hadn’t been present for a while, but my unconscious was sending me a gift…an OPPORTUNITY for genuine healing and I knew this was a make-or-break moment. I had enough presence of mind to know that this was the time to make a choice: I took a leap of faith with my own EMDR therapist and began working on bigger, scarier and deeper issues, and within six months, we eradicated my symptoms of PTSD.
I’m now a firm believer in what EMDR does.
Life, livelihood and leadership
It wasn’t long before I decided this was something I wanted to specialize in; after experiencing how EMDR changed my life, I had to go about learning how EMDR therapy works. And today, I’m an EMDR therapist, one of 6,500 certified through EMDRIA. I know, from first-hand experience, how EMDR sessions can improve one’s quality of living, thinking, coping, performance and long-term achievement. I’ve seen it in myself and I see it in my clients.
Worldwide, the ‘pudding’ is rich: studies have shown that three 90-minute EMDR sessions will yield 85%-100% remission of single-trauma PTSD. With 12 or more sessions, combat veterans and other multiple trauma victims experience similar success. And because EMDR therapy does not rely on detailed, sometimes painful recollections, it has proven effective in treating patients of all ages, from all walks of life.
It all started with Francine Shapiro.
It’s hard to articulate the deep sadness I felt at hearing of her loss, a grief shared by those who knew her, were mentored by her, benefited from her work. She was a true leader who inspired so many to find their rightful place in the world, a goal that might have at one time seemed out of reach, obscured as it was by confusion and trauma.
I’ve always honored the responsibility of my work, but Francine’s passing adds another dimension to this sense of duty. In her absence, others must lead.
In her own words, Dr. Shapiro urged the EMDR community to keep moving forward:
“I want to repeat the same thing I have said for years. There is so much we have done, but so much to do. Anyone who cares to, can open the treatment room doors in a way that can really make an impact. Documenting your outcomes and sharing it is ‘research.’ Research is not just about proving to others. It is a way to guide each one of us to establish the best practices. It is about staying on the right road.”
For Francine, the trajectory was clear: the ‘right road’ is the true course to helping others. And I hope to honor Francine’s work by finding my own way to expand upon it to better the world.
Thank you Francine for your contribution and your legacy. It is truly a privilege to have met you and to grow and learn in the astonishing, life-changing gift you left us.
About Your Santa Clarita Therapist
Kristina de Bree is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) in the state of California and an EMDRIA certified Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapist with a private practice in Valencia. She focuses on helping individuals build, mend and develop healthy relationships and authentic connections with others and with themselves, and as a Valencia EMDR therapist, she is specially qualified to treat trauma, promote performance enhancement and address mental health concerns related to medical illness, right here in Santa Clarita. Kristina believes that the core of every working relationship should be built on trust, authenticity and quality. She brings a deep value and care for the patient experience, believing that change is made through relationships that are trusting, caring and safe.