is a psychotherapist, teacher, clinical consultant and researcher who has been on the faculty of the EMDR Institute for more than 27 years. She currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of EMDR Practice and Research and is an adjunct training faculty member at the Trauma Research Foundation. She is the co-author, with Michael Baldwin, of Every Memory Deserves Respect (2021). She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Thirty years ago, in the summer of 1991, I travelled to Denver to visit my graduate school mentor, Andy Sweet. I had received my doctorate in clinical psychology in 1989, and Andy had taught me most of what I knew about working with people suffering from the effects of trauma. As we sat in his backyard, Andy said: ‘You need to trust me on this, Debbie. There’s this new therapy called eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing, EMDR for short, and it’s unique and potentially powerful.’ It looked and sounded wacky, but it was based on solid principles, and he was getting remarkable results. ‘I think that it’s going to change our field and bring relief to so many more trauma survivors. You should go and get trained in it … and you should run, not walk.’
So I did. I got trained in EMDR that year, studying with Francine Shapiro, its developer. She told us about her discovery four years earlier: she was walking in a park and found herself reflecting on some recent disturbing events in her life. As she thought about them, she became aware that her eyes were moving back and forth, left, right, left, right. And as her eyes moved, she was startled to realise that the negative emotional charge of her memories seemed to dissipate. She began to experiment, to explore the connection between ‘bilateral’ (left-right) eye movements and this ‘desensitisation’ of anxiety.