Getting Past Your Past, by Dr. Francine Shapiro, PhD (Hardcover, 2012)|
(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you
want a hardcopy)
Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.
Dr. Shapiro has written a book that illustrates, through a large number of
case histories, the effectiveness of EMDR Therapy. The subtitle of the book is,
however, relevant to the content of the book only in the sense that a relatively
tiny portion of the book describes self-help therapy. The self-help techniques
and recommended self-help system are incidental to the book, rather than being
Readers should be aware of this problem, but not put off by it. The author
typically is not responsible for the book cover design and other aspects that
"sell" the book. The publisher usually is. And with the huge problems publishers
face today (growing illiteracy, declining book sales, declining margins, etc.),
they are trading some editorial integrity for increased sales. This problem is
why book reviews are so important; you can't judge a book by its cover!
So, it's not a self-help book. However, I have read self-help books that have
less actual self-help content in about the same number of pages. What Dr.
Shapiro provides in this regard could, in itself, justify buying the book. But
the book is really about EMDR.
My impression of EMDR is that it's a variation of traditional talk therapy.
The underlying target of the therapy is the same; the patient is reacting with
maladaptive responses to situations that usually are similar to ones that the
patient, usually very early in life, responded to with the maladaptive behavior
and got results. What's different is the approach to resolving the source of the
conflict or pain. Talk therapy might take only a few months, if the patient who
is especially self-aware and highly motivated to resolve the problem. But might
take years, especially if the source is buried deep in the subconscious. And in
talk therapy, there are often many barriers to actually facing and resolving an
earlier event. Talk therapy also has a learning curve, as the patient usually
must acquire certain skills of introspection and self-examination.
Where EMDR comes in, as I understand, is it provides a different, much
shorter path, to accessing those memories. The learning curve gets erased. The
speed of resolution also gets the patient past a natural resistance that arises
in fear of prolonged confrontation with the source of the pain.
However, there's a downside to EMDR and it relates to the reason talk therapy
has fallen out of favor in recent years. At first glance, the decline in talk
therapy's prominence seems inexplicable. After all, if you can work out your
problems and solve them, isn't that a good thing?
Well, yes. But the problem is that, in our ADD-inflicted "culture" few people
can or will focus long enough for this kind of therapy to work efficiently. And
it's also true that large, revenue-driven hospital systems run by Wall Street
types can make far more money by dissing talk therapy and hooking patients on
expensive prescription medications than they can make by providing talk therapy
to patients. On that first point, EMDR seems to be the solution. Even people
with short attention spans can engage in EMDR therapy. On that second point,
well, there's a large cadre of Wall Street types seriously in need of therapy.
Early in the book, Dr. Shapiro states she is the originator of EMDR therapy
and she relates how she made the breakthrough. The book jacket inside rear cover
also describes her as its originator. Ah-ha! We have yet another wannabe
peddling yet another new system that will go nowhere, right? Wrong. At the time
of the writing, there were over 70,000 certified EMDR clinicians or therapists.
While I lack the professional credentials to pass judgment on EMDR therapy, I
will say that Dr. Shapiro makes a convincing case for it. And not just in this
book. She's the recipient of several prestigious professional awards. She also
speaks at universities and psychological conferences throughout the world. The
jacket notes she's been an "invited" speaker. As someone who used to do quite a
bit of public speaking, I understand that distinction. When this wording is used
correctly, it means someone heard you speak at an event and was so impressed
that person invited you to speak before his/her organization. Or you get invited
From several cues in the book, I'm guessing that Dr. Shapiro is not the
typical Powerpointlessness "speaker" who helps audiences take a refreshing nap
in lieu of actually engaging with them. That's why she gets "invited."
book consists of 11 chapters spanning 301 pages, three appendices spanning 14
pages, and a bibliography (Appendix D) spanning 17 pages.
The first chapter
addresses the automatic response, as illustrated by asking you to say what pops
into your mind when you hear "Roses are red..." Nearly everyone will say
"Violets are blue," even though violets aren't actually blue.
Each of the next
chapters takes a different theme, such as "What's running your show? (Chapter 4)
and then looks at how EMDR addresses that. Sprinkled in through the text are
examples of using certain self-help techniques, such as the butterfly hug. One
technique Dr. Shapiro seems to find especially useful is a breathing technique.
This is the same technique martial artists use to remain calm and in control.
Appendix A "Glossary and Self-Help Techniques, Audio Recordings, and Personal
Table" is an excellent resource for someone who wants to get on an easy to
maintain program of well-being.
Appendix B "Choosing a Clinician" provides
information for the reader who wants to get started in EMDR therapy but doesn't
know how to go about doing that. It also provides information on EMDR
humanitarian assistance programs.
Appendix C "EMDR: Trauma Research Findings
and Further Reading" is probably meant for the medical practitioner. An
indication of this is the fact that many of the sources listed are professional