The Growth of EMDR Therapy
EMDR therapy’s first research article was published in 1989 by Dr. Francine Shapiro. The field of EMDR therapy expanded greatly in the 1990s, facing both enthusiasm and criticism as many developing therapies do. Dr. Shapiro established an EMDR training organization, the EMDR Institute, in 1990. Shortly after, EMDRIA, the EMDR International Association, was founded in 1995 to establish standards for training and practice. From the 1990s until now, many more EMDR-focused training organizations and humanitarian organizations worldwide have been established as the benefits of EMDR therapy have been recognized and acknowledged. Research gathered steam throughout the 2000s with rapid gains in knowledge around neurobiology; how the brain, body, and nervous system react to trauma and store trauma memories. More advanced imaging capabilities created new ways to glimpse and report what happens during trauma and EMDR therapy. Now, EMDR therapy is considered an evidence-based therapy for PTSD, and further evidence-based research is being done to monitor EMDR therapy as a helpful treatment for many other mental and physical health conditions.
We are celebrating the EMDRIA Trailblazers, EMDR therapists who have been with EMDRIA and practicing EMDR therapy for more than 20 years! These EMDR therapists have been navigating discovery and critique in the EMDR field while gathering wisdom and continually honing for excellence. We polled these members for their input on various questions that will make up a four part series over the next few months, so stay tuned!!
Here EMDRIA Trailblazers respond to:
“What growth have you noticed in the field of EMDR therapy over the past 20 years?”
“The continuing research and clinical experience continue to advance the field, providing more education to consumers and advanced training for practitioners. More EMDR-trained practitioners extend this evidence-based therapy to reach more clients in need.” *** Sandra Barker, Ph.D., NCC, LPC
“When I first started, EMDR wasn’t nearly as widely accepted as it is now. More therapists, as well as the general public, now recognize EMDR as an effective, efficient form of therapy. I now have potential clients contact me seeking EMDR Therapy. This never used to happen in the early days. Also, the ongoing research has resulted in improvements and further validation of EMDR’s efficacy.” *** Max Bowen, LCPC
“Tons of growth in new protocols; expanded areas of targets such as OCD, substance abuse and other special populations; increased focus on somatic aspect of trauma and intersection with somatic therapies. Specialized approaches such as ASSYST (Ignacio (Nacho) Jarero) and Natural Processing (Craig Penner).” *** WSB
“The most profound area of growth has been the research supporting EMDR as an EBT. I am amazed at how Francine’s original hypotheses regarding how EMDR worked and the AIP model has withstood the test of time and scrutiny. I am very impressed with the development of neuroimagining allowing us to “see” changes in the brain and the cross-pollination between the fields of brain science, heart science, physiology, and psychology. Back in the day, we knew EMDR therapy was a holistic therapy we just didn’t have the evidence to support it…we just had lots of critics. EMDR is so widely known these days I rarely have to explain it. Who would have thought we could do EMDR therapy over a computer! Not me, I have been amazed at how effective EMDR therapy is, even over Telehealth.” *** DaLene Forester, Ph.D.
“I have been an EMDRIA member for over 20 years and initially trained in EMDR in 1997. Fortunately, the field of EMDR therapy has grown substantially since its inception. And slowly, EMDR therapy is inching toward becoming a household name.” *** Susan Goodell, MA, MS, MFT (Retired Member)
“I was first trained in 1992-93 in workshops run by Francine Shapiro. The approach has just exploded since then, with many more people trained and many more protocols available. A certification process was developed. When I was first trained, EMDR therapy was virtually unheard of and considered experimental. Now it is well-known, sought after, and considered evidence-based, at least for PTSD.” *** Linda Hinkle, Ph.D. HSPP
“In the beginning… One woman was working on a doctoral dissertation. She hypothesized that bilateral eye movements could desensitize traumatic incidents. Her dissertation was published, and the technique known as EMD was born. The woman, Francine Shapiro, shared her ideas with friends and colleagues in the community and enlisted our help. Slowly this “small family” grew. We shared experiences under Shapiro’s Socratic questioning and push for research. The “technique” became a methodology… more research and invitations. Then it became EMDR therapy. The “small family” grew in the EMDR Institute. Then HAP and EMDRIA, and now we have “family” worldwide! We should grow well as long as we continue with the Socratic process, research, and inclusion.” *** Jennifer Lendl, Ph.D.
“I was a founding member of EMDRIA and was trained in 1990 by Dr. Shapiro. It has been amazing to see the growth of EMDR over all of these years. We now see EMDR Therapy used around the world and it is thrilling and emotional to see Dr. Shapiro’s dream of transforming trauma globally.” *** Priscilla Marquis, Ph.D.
“In the beginning, EMDR was looked upon as a fringe therapy. Very few people had heard of it. It was ridiculed by the cognitive majority, who managed to sideline it. We could not explain how or why it worked. It took much convincing for a client to agree to try it. Now, my practice is filled with clients who have heard of EMDR or been recommended by their friends, therapists, or doctors because of their traumas. And I can explain how/why it works.” *** Linda Nordquist, LCSW (Retired Member)
“I was trained in 1992, and have noticed that EMDRIA keeps growing with membership. Still needs diversity, but this is changing.” *** Elaine Ortman, Nurse Practitioner
“I was trained in Level 2 EMDR about 25 years ago. Most of my colleagues scoffed at the notion that such an approach could be useful. Clients were unfamiliar with the treatment and could be skeptical, wary, or even afraid to try it. Tricare insurance, which serves military personnel, would not approve EMDR as part of a treatment plan. But for me, EMDR was a professional game-changer, and I’m so proud to have been an early adopter.” *** Naomi B Rather, Ph.D., LCMHC
“In 2000, EMDR basic training was about learning a tool for the therapist’s toolbox. EMDR basic training was done on two separate weekends. I was fortunate to do one of my basic training weekends with Francine Shapiro. At my basic training, I chose to work on something I had worked on in talk therapy that was still bugging me. When my memory was reprocessed, I felt a huge weight lift- it was amazing. After basic training, I began consultation with Deany Laliotis as I needed help using EMDR to its full potential. I also began my own EMDR psychotherapy. I have remained in case consultation as well as EMDR psychotherapy ever since. Case consultation is critical to learning the craft of EMDR psychotherapy and staying abreast of EMDR as it grows and changes. We need to continue to do our work to make room to work with our clients.” *** Mary C. Ray, LCSW, ACSW, CSCT, SEP
“I’ve been doing EMDR for 29 years. I’ve seen the number of trained people go from hundreds to thousands. There’s been promising research proving the efficacy of EMDR, hundreds of new ways to use it (depression, anxiety, dissociation, EMDR 2.0, Flash, developmental trauma, etc.), and lots of disagreements on its importance of staying with the old Standard Protocol.” *** Robin Shapiro, LICSW
“I have seen EMDR Therapy evolve from a new and interesting technique that clients were curious about to a widely accepted treatment model. In the early days, I would have to wait for the right moment to introduce EMDR. Today, most of the new client referrals I receive are seeking EMDR Therapy.” *** Laura L. Steele, PsyD
“It’s been exciting to be part of the EMDR community over the past thirty years. When I completed the training in 1995, EMDR was widely viewed as more of a technique than a therapy. Through the years, practitioners around the globe have fine-tuned and adapted the methods to the complexities and needs of various populations. Many have found useful ways to integrate the approach with other modalities. Specialty training has made it possible for EMDR therapists everywhere to incorporate the discoveries and advances into their practices, growing EMDR into an exciting and effective therapy.” *** Deb Wesselmann, MS, LIMHP
“In the mid-1990s, I attended an Ericksonian Conference where Francine Shapiro was speaking. One of the other presenters, a well-known hypnotherapist, publicly scornfully derided her and EMDR, and no one of note rebuked him. Now EMDR is so researched and well-known that I get multiple weekly referrals from people requesting EMDR. Good work, community!” *** Kathy Wilmering, MSW ARNP BC
“I have been using EMDR since 1990. I was fortunate to have worked with Howard Lipke and Al Botkin in the Stress Disorder Treatment Unit (SDTU) at the North Chicago Veterans Administration (VA) location. We read Francine Shapiro’s December 1989 article and tried the method on volunteer staff members. Having found it effective, as we observed and experienced positive results, we invited volunteers from the residents on the SDTU to try the method. We were trained by Francine Shapiro in 1990, completed what was then called EMDR “Intermediate” training, and conducted a small research project on EMDR, which continued to support its effectiveness. The efficacy of EMDR seemed to have been questioned within the VA and Vet Center (RCS) for many years. When the first writings comparing therapies for PTSD emerged, EMDR seemed to lag behind the other evidence-based psychotherapies in terms of acceptance. However, there have been major strides made in this area. Some VA/RCS sites accepted EMDR and sought to have therapists trained, others let therapists use training funds to get the training, and others had therapists who did the training independently. After I transferred to the Portland Oregon/Vancouver WA VA, one of the local Vet Center therapists complained that all Vet Center staff were told that they were not allowed to use it. However, the therapist said he would continue to use it as he felt he was “grandfathered in.” As with that Vet Center therapist, over the years, I met many innovative, skilled clinicians who opted to provide this effective, evidence-based therapy even when the powers-that-be did not encourage it. Now we have over 560 EMDR-trained therapists who participate in a monthly conference call; the RCS has monthly conference calls; and the VA has an EMDR Sharepoint, which contains articles and information about EMDR and its efficacy, sample progress notes, and other useful information. Some of the groups that provided support for EMDR include the EMDRIA Veterans Task Force (of which I was fortunate to be a part) and the EMDR Research Foundation. While the EMDRIA Veterans Task Force has ended, the EMDR Research Foundation is still in existence. The EMDR Research Foundation supports research in many areas and provides summaries of recent research that support the use of EMDR with specific populations. However, the effects of the bottom-up push for EMDR’s acceptance by trained clinicians within agencies and organizations are an integral part of the current recognition of EMDR. The National Center for PTSD now has an EMDR consultant on staff, an information site comparing the different types of EBPs for PTSD, and an EMDR Whiteboard. AboutFace videos also provide information about the personal experiences of Veterans. Besides growing in support within the VA/RCS and Department of Defense, there has been widespread growth in the application of EMDR for various issues, including medical conditions, betrayal trauma, and other mental health issues besides PTSD. We have come to understand that even those individuals who may not meet Criterion A for PTSD can still be helped.” *** Jamie Zabukovec, Psy.D.
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General Resources for Mental Health Therapists
If you are a therapist interested in the EMDR training, visit our EMDR Training & Education tab:
If you are EMDR trained:
- Learn more about EMDRIA membership
- Search for Continuing Education opportunities
- Check out the EMDRIA blog, Focal Point
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