Francine Shapiro

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Francine Shapiro
Born(1948-02-18)February 18, 1948
DiedJune 16, 2019(2019-06-16) (aged 71)
Alma materBrooklyn College
New York University

Francine Shapiro (February 18, 1948 – June 16, 2019) was an American psychologist and educator who originated and developed eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), a form of psychotherapy for resolving the symptoms of traumatic and other disturbing life experiences.[1][2]

In 1987, she had an experience walking through a park that ignited the chance observation that moving her eyes from side to side appeared to reduce the disturbance of negative thoughts and memories.[3] This experience led her to examine this phenomenon more systematically. Working with approximately 70 volunteers, she developed standardized procedures to maximize therapeutic outcomes, conducted additional research and published a randomized controlled study with trauma victims.[4] After further research and elaboration of the methodology, she published a textbook in 1995 detailing the eight phases of this form of psychotherapy.[5] EMDR was recommended as an effective treatment for trauma by some international practice guidelines.[6] Research on the efficacy of EMDR as a treatment for military personnel with PTSD is ongoing. A 2018 study compared intensive daily and weekly applications of EMDR treatment for veterans with PTSD, finding it effective "when offered in both weekly treatment format as well as the intensive 10-day format on an outpatient basis."[7] A 2019 study found the treatment was not effective for active military and post-military service personnel, but the study admits “This negative finding may be real but may also be due to chance and several other factors including small sample sizes leading to insufficient power, chronicity and treatment-resistance of participants, and sub-optimal delivery of EMDR (two studies reported novice EMDR therapists with only level one training (2 days) (Carlson et al., 1998; Jensen, 1994) and two studies offered only two EMDR therapy sessions.”[8] As well, the treatment received a 'conditionally recommended' rating by the American Psychological Association in 2017 along with brief eclectic psychotherapy and narrative exposure therapy. This rating was behind 'strongly recommended' treatments such as CBT, CPT, PE, and CT.[9]

Early life[edit]

Shapiro was born Jewish in Brooklyn, the daughter of Dan, who managed a garage and a fleet of taxis, and his wife, Shirley. The death of her younger sister Debra at the age of nine affected her deeply.[10]


Shapiro held a BA (1968) and MA (1974) in English Literature from Brooklyn College, City University of New York. In 1974, while employed full-time as a high school English teacher, she enrolled in a PhD program in English Literature at New York University. In 1979, having completed all but her dissertation, she was diagnosed with cancer. Shapiro travelled,[10] then settled in San Diego and set up a nonprofit organization, Human Development Institute, along with Shirley Phares-Kime.[11]

Her post-recovery experiences shifted her attention from literature to the effects of stress on the immune system, based on the work of Norman Cousins and others.[12]

Over the next few years she participated in numerous workshops and programs exploring various stress reduction and self-care procedures. During that time, she enrolled in the Professional School of Psychological Studies, San Diego (which was not regionally accredited, but was approved by the state of California for psychologist licensure and is now defunct).[13][14][15] Her observations regarding the beneficial effect of eye movements, and the development of procedures to utilize them in clinical practice, became the basis of her dissertation. She received her PhD in 1988, and her thesis was published in the Journal of Traumatic Studies in 1989,[4] followed by an invited article that was published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry.[16]

Affiliations, presentations, publications[edit]

Shapiro went on to devote herself to the development and research of EMDR therapy.[17] She was a senior research fellow emeritus at the Mental Research Institute, Palo Alto, California, executive director of the EMDR Institute, Watsonville, California, and founder and president emeritus of EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Programs, a non-profit organization that coordinates disaster response and pro bono trainings worldwide. The organization was a recipient of the 2011 International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies Sarah Haley Memorial Award for Clinical Excellence. Shapiro was designated as one of the “Cadre of Experts” of the American Psychological Association & Canadian Psychological Association Joint Initiative on Ethnopolitical Warfare, and served as advisor to a wide variety of trauma treatment and outreach organizations and journals. She was an invited speaker at psychology conferences and universities worldwide,[18] and wrote and co-authored more than 60 journal articles, chapters, and books about EMDR,[19] including the primary text Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Basic Principles, Protocols and Procedures.[20] She was a licensed clinical psychologist and resided in Northern California.


As the developer of EMDR, Shapiro was the recipient of a variety of awards, including the International Sigmund Freud Award for Psychotherapy of the City of Vienna in conjunction with the World Council for Psychotherapy, the American Psychological Association Trauma Psychology Division Award for Outstanding Contributions to Practice in Trauma Psychology, and the Distinguished Scientific Achievement in Psychology Award presented by the California Psychological Association.


Shapiro received a second cancer diagnosis in her later years.[21]

She died suddenly on June 16, 2019 at a medical center North of San Francisco not far from her home,[21] after a long-term struggle with respiratory issues. The actual cause of death was unknown.[22]



  • Shapiro, F (2001). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Basic Principles, Protocols, and Procedures. Guildford Press. ISBN 1-57230-672-6
  • Shapiro, F (Ed.) (2002). EMDR as an Integrative Psychotherapy Approach: Experts of Diverse Orientations Explore the Paradigm Prism. APA. ISBN 1-55798-922-2
  • Shapiro, F. (2012). Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy. New York: Rodale. ISBN 1-59486-425-X
  • Shapiro, F & Forrest, M S (2004). EMDR: The Breakthrough Therapy for Overcoming Anxiety, Stress and Trauma. Basic books. ISBN 0-465-04301-1
  • Shapiro, F., Kaslow, F., & Maxfield, L. (Eds.) (2007). Handbook of EMDR and Family Therapy Processes. Wiley. ISBN 0-471-70947-6
  • Solomon, M.F., Neborsky, R.J., McCullough, L., Alpert, M., Shapiro, F., & Malan, D. (2001). Short-Term Therapy for Long-Term Change. New York: Norton. ISBN 0-393-70333-9
  • Adler-Tapia, R., Settle, C., & Shapiro, F. (2012). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) psychotherapy with children who have experienced sexual abuse and trauma. In P. Goodyear-Brown & P. Goodyear-Brown (Ed) (Eds.), Handbook of child sexual abuse: Identification, assessment, and treatment.
  • Shapiro, F. (2017) Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy, Third Edition: Basic Principles, Protocols, and Procedures. The Guilford Press. ISBN 978-1462532766


  1. ^ Shapiro, F. & Solomon, R. M. (2010). EMDR. In I. Weiner and W.E.Craighead (Eds.). The Corsini encyclopedia of psychology (4th edition). Vol. 2 Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  2. ^ Olga Khazan (July 27, 2015). "EMDR Eye Movement Therapy for Victims of Trauma and PTSD - The Atlantic". The Atlantic.
  3. ^ "History of EMDR". Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  4. ^ a b Shapiro, Francine (1989). "Efficacy of the eye movement desensitization procedure in the treatment of traumatic memories". Journal of Traumatic Stress. 2 (2): 199–223. doi:10.1002/jts.2490020207.
  5. ^ Shapiro, F. (1995). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Basic Principles, Protocols, and Procedures. New York: Guilford Press.
  6. ^ "What is EMDR?". Archived from the original on November 3, 2011. Retrieved September 22, 2009.
  7. ^ Hurley, E. C. (August 24, 2018). "Effective Treatment of Veterans With PTSD: Comparison Between Intensive Daily and Weekly EMDR Approaches". Frontiers in Psychology. 9: 1458. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01458. ISSN 1664-1078. PMC 6117416. PMID 30197612.
  8. ^ Kitchiner, Neil J.; Lewis, Catrin; Roberts, Neil P.; Bisson, Jonathan I. (December 31, 2019). "Active duty and ex-serving military personnel with post-traumatic stress disorder treated with psychological therapies: systematic review and meta-analysis". European Journal of Psychotraumatology. 10 (1): 1684226. doi:10.1080/20008198.2019.1684226. ISSN 2000-8198. PMC 6853217. PMID 31762951.
  9. ^ "APA PsycNet". 2017. doi:10.1037/e501872017-001. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  10. ^ a b "Francine Shapiro obituary". July 15, 2019.
  11. ^ McLean, Dan (February 13, 1985). "Aiming at Superachievers NLP: Influencing Anybody to Do Just About Anything". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California. Retrieved July 2, 2019.
  12. ^ Cousins, N. (1979). Anatomy of an illness as perceived by the patient: Reflections on healing . NY: Norton
  13. ^ "Diploma mill". The Skeptic's Dictionary. Retrieved December 28, 2011. Dr. Francine Shapiro--the creator of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy--got her doctorate from the now defunct and never accredited Professional School of Psychological Studies.
  14. ^ California Postsecondary Education Commission (1990). California Colleges and Universities. “Approved: Section 94310.2 of the Education Code permits the Superintendent of Public Instruction to grant approval to those institutions that have been evaluated favorably by the Private Postsecondary Education Division as being consistent with accredited institutions in terms of quality.” (p.286)
  15. ^ "Accredited Programs in Clinical Psychology". American Psychological Association. Retrieved July 4, 2013.
  16. ^ Shapiro, F. (1989). "Eye movement desensitization: A new treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder". Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. 20 (3): 211–7. doi:10.1016/0005-7916(89)90025-6. PMID 2576656.
  17. ^ Luber, Marilyn; Shapiro, Francine (2009). "Interview with Francine Shapiro: Historical Overview, Present Issues, and Future Directions of EMDR". Journal of EMDR Science and Practice. 3 (4): 217–31. doi:10.1891/1933-3196.3.4.217. S2CID 55112445.
  18. ^ Presentations Archived November 25, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Publications Archived November 25, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ Shapiro, F. (2001). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Basic Principles, Protocols, and Procedures (2nd edition). New York: Guilford Press.
  21. ^ a b Warren, Penny (July 15, 2019). "Francine Shapiro Obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved December 3, 2021.
  22. ^ Carey, Benedict (July 11, 2019). "Francine Shapiro, Developer of Eye-Movement Therapy, Dies at 71". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 17, 2019.


  • Brown, S., & Shapiro, F. (2006). EMDR in the Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder. Clinical Case Studies, 5(5), 403–420.