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Brief History of the EMDR Movement

In 1987, Dr. Francine Shapiro, a psychology graduate student, was walking through a city park in Los Gatos, California. The disturbing thoughts she had started to disappear. When she thought about them again, she realized that they no longer bothered her like they used to. She noticed that when a disturbing thought came to mind, her eyes began to move quickly. It seemed that eye movements managed to get the uncomfortable thought out of her conscious mind. When she thought back to it, she had lost much of her negative letter. 

So, she began deliberately experimenting, thinking about things from her past and present that bothered her as she rolled her eyes. Every time she did this the disturbance ceased. She decided to find out if it would work for other people so she experimented with her friends. She asked them to follow the movement of her fingers as a way to help them keep eye movements while they were thinking about disturbing things. After experimenting with more than seventy people, she confirmed that the process had desensitized the disturbing thoughts. 

She perfected the technique and called it  EMD, Eye Movement Desensitization , and in 1990, she expanded the concept to  EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, to include the concept of processing. She was convinced that eye movements could process traumatic memories, freeing the person to behave more adaptively and functionally. (Parnell, L. (1997) Transforming Trauma: EMDR.  New York: WW Norton & Co. p. 40). As you know now its the era of the internet so another term cloud emdr is being used for online emdr therapy in which the session are conducted over the video or audio call.

In 1988, Dr. Shapiro tried his new method on 22 volunteers, Vietnam War veterans or victims of rape or sexual abuse, and who had the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder .  Half of the group received an EMDR session, while the other group (control group) were only asked to describe their trauma in detail. The EMDR group demonstrated significant improvements; the control group did not. For ethical reasons, EMDR was later applied to the control group as well. At one month and three months after treatment, all patients had maintained positive results from their EMDR session. 

History of EMDR in Brazil

Although an Argentinian colleague gave some training modules in Brazil from 1997 onwards, it was with the investiture of Esly Carvalho, Ph.D. that the movement gains strength and expansion in Brazil. In August 2004, he teaches the first training course in EMDR therapy in Portuguese in Rio de Janeiro. Certified by the EMDR Institute in the United States, a company founded by Dr. Francine Shapiro, she was the first Brazilian to receive this title. In 2005 she is named Trainer of Trainers by this same distinguished institute while still living in Dallas. Continuing the expansion of EMDR in Brazil, after returning to live in Brazil in 2006, Esly organized the 1st Iberoamerican Congress of EMDR in 2007 where the regional association of EMDR Iberoamérica (EMDR IBA)

was founded.Esly was elected the first president and served two terms, handing over her position at the III Iberoamerican Congress of EMDR in San José, Costa Rica where Dr. Francine Shapiro was the speaker of honor. She was a founding member of the Brazilian EMDR association and its vice-president for several terms.

In 2008, Esly founded EMDR Training and Consulting to formalize the expansion of EMDR in the country, continuing the training of trainers, supervisors and facilitators. Seeing the lack of books and teaching materials, she founded TraumaClinic Edições which today has a wide portfolio of books on EMDR, also available on Amazon . In 2014, TraumaClinic was

founded. Esly developed the TraumaClinic Methodology, where she implemented all her experience and professional trajectory. Over time, it led to the TraumaClinic Methodology Licensing project , where Esly trains other professionals in their way of working, completely online, with teaching and supervision.  

There are currently more than 3,000 EMDR professionals trained by EMDR Training and Consulting, more than 20 Facilitators and Supervisors on its team, and 5 Brazilian Trainers, including Raquel Hoersting authorized by the EMDR Institute to offer training in Canada where she transferred. Silvia Guz is also a Trainer of Trainers (EMDR Institute/EMDR IBA). Training has been offered in more than 20 cities in Brazil, from Porto Velho to Recife, and from Belém to Porto Alegre.  

Expanding EMDR to other countries

In 1995, when she was still living in Colorado Springs, Esly had her first EMDR session. She was so impressed with the results that the following year she sought training. The second module was done in Denver (1997) with Dr. Francine Shapiro. In 1998, Esly returned to Ecuador due to her husband’s duties and in 1999, she began to bring Spanish training to Quito with trainer John Hartung, Psy.D. Ligia Barascout from Guatemala was the first facilitator to support the work in this country. Years later, the Ecuatorian Association of EMDR and Psychotrauma/EMDR Ecuador was formed, which hosted the II Iberoamerican Congress of EMDR in 2010.

Esly Carvalho had developed a vast network of contacts in Latin America due to the fact that she lived in Ecuador and Bolivia for her husband’s tasks. She also traveled for her work with Latin American organizations, so she had the opportunity to expand EMDR to other countries. It is her dream to have at least one national coach in each country in Latin America.

A few years after starting the course in Quito, Esly traveled to Costa Rica and set up the first training group in that country that were initially formed by Ligia Barascout, who was the first female trainer in Guatemala. Eventually Gabriela Segura became Costa Rica’s first female coach. When Esly formed another group in Caracas, it was Gabriela who gave the initial formation to the Venezuelan group, which unfortunately was interrupted due to political and economic difficulties.

In October 2006, she taught the first EMDR training course in Portuguese in Lisbon, Portugal, and continued the courses for another four years. In 2009, the Associação Portuguesa de EMDR is founded and Esly is recognized as an Honorary Member for the efforts invested in that country.

In 2012, Esly returns to Bolivia after having lived there at the beginning of her marriage and trains the first group of EMDR professionals. Over time, Gregory Rake takes over the organization of the courses, and Glenda Villamarin (Ecuador) trains another group. Belen Romá, a trainer who lives in Peru, took over the continuity of EMDR training in Bolivia. There are already several Bolivian Certified EMDR Therapists and this year (2019) the first Bolivian Supervisor graduated. Over time, we hope to see the first Bolivian female coach emerge.

And who knows, maybe we’ll take EMDR to Angola…

Other colleagues have contributed to the expansion of EMDR in Latin America, starting with more pioneers: Maria Elena Aduriz in Argentina, Ignacio Jarero and Lucina Artigas in Mexico and Ligia Barascout. Santiago Jácome took over the training courses in Ecuador when Esly moved back to the US in 2002, and is currently a Trainer of Trainers, supporting the training of new trainers not only in his country but also in Chile and Panama. The other colleagues continue to train more professionals and trainers in this expansion of EMDR therapy in Latin America.

Dr. Francine Shapiro passed away in June 2019 and is remembered with nostalgia and admiration. She always spoke of the importance of expanding frontiers so that more and more people could have access to this effective and scientific form of treatment. It is now our duty to honor her legacy and do our part to see that through.

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