Women Influencing Modern Therapy 

Mental health is an ever-evolving field. And though there have been many advances and changes over the years, three women have had a profound impact on modern therapy:

  • Francine Shapiro, who developed Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing to help people suffering from traumatic memories.
  • Dr. Sue Johnson, creator of Emotionally Focused Therapy.
  • Dr. Marsha Linehan who developed Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).  

 Let’s take a closer look at how each of these women have shaped modern therapy. 

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Francine Shapiro, Ph.D.: Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing 

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) was originated by Francine Shapiro in 1989 when she discovered that eye movements appeared to reduce the intensity of distressing memories.  

 The premise behind EMDR is that eye movement promotes desensitization and helps the brain process traumatic memories more effectively so that they can be stored as normal memories rather than causing emotional distress.  

 EMDR involves stimulating different areas of the brain using back-and-forth eye movements or other forms of rhythmic stimulation while recalling traumatic memories or experiences that are causing distress.  

 EMDR consists of eight phases: 

  • Phase One: History Taking—The therapist gathers information about the clients medical and mental history and evaluates the client’s readiness for EMDR treatment and determines which target memory should be addressed first.
  • Phase Two: Preparation – The therapist educates and prepares the client for processing their targeted memory in subsequent phases.
  • Phase Three: Assessment – The therapist identifies what specific aspects of the target memory cause distress when they are recalled. Clients use a 10-point scale to rate each aspect to assess its level of disturbance before EMDR begins. 
  • Phase Four: Desensitization – Clients are instructed to recall their target memory while performing eye movements. This helps reduce feelings of distress associated with recalling that memory and allows them to process it more effectively. 
  • Phase Five: Installation –Clients are instructed to think about something positive related to their target memory while performing bilateral stimulation to facilitate installation of these new associations with that event or experience. 
  • Phase Six: Body Scan –Clients are asked to scan their body for any residual physical sensations related to their target memory or emotions that may still be present after desensitization and installation have taken place.
  • Phase Seven: Closure – After all previous steps have been completed, closure is used as a way for therapists to bring treatment sessions involving EMDR processing to an end without leaving clients feeling overwhelmed or distressed by unresolved material related to their target memories. 
  • Phase Eight: Reevaluation –Clients are asked if there has been any change in how they feel about their target memories since starting treatment using EMDR therapy techniques. 

The goal of EMDR is to reduce distress, resolve past issues, and increase coping skills so that individuals suffering from trauma can move forward in life more confidently.

GoodTherapy | Modern Therapy

Dr. Sue Johnson: Emotionally Focused Therapy 

Emotion focused therapy (EFT) was developed by Dr. Sue Johnson and is best known as a couples’ intervention tool but can also be used to address individual depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.  

 EFT focuses on identifying the emotions that drive most conflicts between couples, such as fear and insecurity, so they can be addressed effectively together through positive changes in communication patterns. These patterns can help bring about emotional connection within the relationship.  

 This type of therapy encourages couples to work together to explore their emotions with an emphasis on understanding each partner’s needs and feelings so they can become emotionally aware of one another’s perspectives instead of just focusing on their own needs or desires. 


Dr. Marsha Linehan: Dialectical Behavior Therapy 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) was developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan 

with the goal of helping people who have difficulty regulating their emotions due to severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder.  

 DBT helps people better manage their emotional responses in difficult situations or when faced with triggers associated with mental illness like depression, anxiety, or substance abuse disorders. DBT has been proven effective in treating many types of emotional distress including those associated with BPD, schizophrenia, severe depression/anxiety disorders, PTSD and substance abuse disorders. 

 DBT consists of four stages, with each phase teaching the patient skills such as emotional regulation techniques, mindfulness exercises, interpersonal communication skills, problem solving strategies and distress tolerance techniques. 

  1.  The first stage focuses on achieving behavioral control. The individual works with their therapist to identify behaviors that are damaging or dangerous and develop strategies to gain more control over them. This includes learning skills such as mindfulness, self-soothing techniques, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance. All these skills help individuals better regulate their emotions and behavior so they can move forward in their journey toward healing.  
  2.   The second stage focuses on emotional regulation, teaching individuals to accept themselves and others without judgment or criticism while also learning how to effectively communicate needs and boundaries with others. In this process, individuals will also explore what it means to experience positive emotions such as joy, love, and happiness without feeling guilty or ashamed about them.  
  3.   The third stage of DBT encourages individuals to define meaningful life goals that will bring fulfillment beyond just being free from destructive behaviors or thoughts. During this stage, people learn the importance of self-care practices such as exercise and relaxation techniques that promote an overall sense of wellbeing in daily life. Additionally, individuals will explore ways to build self-respect through positive affirmations and creative activities that foster feelings of accomplishment and pride.   
  4.      A fourth stage may be needed by some individuals to find deeper meaning through a spiritual existence—to connect with something greater than themselves for guidance and comfort during times of trouble.  

 People who choose this additional step may benefit from exploring different spiritual traditions or disciplines such as yoga or meditation which can provide insight into not only the body but also the mind-body connection between physical health and mental wellbeing.   

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Their Lasting Impact on Modern Therapy  

Each of these women have played an important role in developing effective treatments for individuals suffering from mental illness which has greatly impacted modern therapy today.  

 Mental health professionals continue to utilize these powerful tools to provide better outcomes for patients dealing with complex mental health issues like PTSD while also helping those struggling with anxiety or depression find relief from their symptoms. 

 Women from around the world continue to make significant contributions toward improving our understanding and treatment of mental health issues through therapies that offer insight into how we interact with ourselves and others around us.  

 At GoodTherapy, we strive to provide detailed information on all kinds of mental health issues so that they are better understood when it comes time for treatment. GoodTherapy offers resources to help you find a therapist who best suits your needs and learning more about different types of therapy that may be beneficial for you. 

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Douglas

    March 30th, 2023 at 12:24 AM

    Thanks for sharing valuable information about women influencing modern therapy. It is also sometimes used in medical treatments for serious psychiatric disorders.

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