Robin Shapiro has 35 years of experience as a psychotherapist and social worker, specializing in trauma therapy. In this interview, she discusses how she came to the profession, the various trauma therapy technologies she uses with clients, and how the profession has changed during her career. Robin lives in Seattle, Washington, and has written two books and edited and contributed to two others.
[2:13] Robin talks about what brought her to train in psychotherapy. She says she was trained from birth to respond to people and help them. This was her role in her family. As a teen she began volunteering at a crisis center. She went to school for social work, because she wanted to see people in the context of their entire lives. Her first job was running the first day treatment plan for the gay community in Seattle, in the early ’80s.
[5:00] Robin explains how she came to EMDR, which she has found to be the most effect method for treating trauma. She’s done EMDR for 23 years, hypnosis for 35 years, and somatic work for 28 years, but she’s still learning more.
[6:54] Robin sees 16-18 people a week in her private practice. She works with a few patients with severe dissociative disorders, “skinny nervous people,” and others. She’s in a 4-year SIMS training program now, which is aimed at attachment issues.
[8:49] Robin says “skinny nervous people” are her favorite flavor of humans—they’re the people who are extra sensitive, programmed to respond to slight changes in the environment. They also respond more to internal cues. OCD and phobias are common in this group. Sometimes they have trauma in their pasts and sometimes not.
[10:40] Cognitive behavior therapy doesn’t have a good track record in Robin’s experience. What she finds most effective is working directly with the body. She wrote in her first book, “Your brain is lying to you about this thing that’s obsessing you. Every time you have that thought, go back to your body.” EMDR is very helpful at calming down obsessive thinking, and noticing what good things are happening at the same time as the anxiety. This is a kind of orienting response: look around, see there’s no danger, and the body relaxes.
[13:50] Robin teaches many of her clients basic meditation techniques.
[14:21] Robin discusses her books. Her first two were about EMDR, and were a collaborative effort with other therapists. She wrote some chapters for each and edited both. These books offer practical ways to use the technology with many different client populations.
[16:14] Robin’s third book is about trauma therapies and was initiated by her publisher W.W. Norton (visit their website for a discount on her books). Robin’s belief is whatever works for the person in front of you is what you should do, as their therapist. The last chapter of the book is how to care for yourself if you’re a trauma therapist.
[18:38] Robin’s fourth book, Easy Ego State Interventions, has been her most successful. It explains how to work with simple trauma, and how to find adult states and stay in them, even when triggered. Relationship challenges, personality disorders, suicidal tendencies, cultural and abuse related interjects are all covered in this book, which was a bestseller.
[21:12] Robin says she thinks this book sells so well because “easy” is in the title, and also people want to know what it’s about. She’s been invited to speak around the world because of this book.
[23:15] Robin talks about the range of EMDR material available, and how it can be combined with other trauma therapies to be most effective. Somatic therapy places attention on sensation. SIMS is relationship based, around the connection with a therapist. EMDR involves bilateral work and the therapeutic relationship. As a trauma therapist, Robin says you must rise above your training and use the technology that is best for your client, not merely your favorite modality.
[25:40] Robin explains how she has built her practice. In the beginning of her career, she built her private practice while on unemployment. To build her business, she wrote a letter to every therapist, doctor, attorney, and other professional she knew in Seattle explaining her services. She advertised in a weekly magazine and wrote a weekly column. She ran workshops for the gay community during the AIDS epidemic and became known for this work. Her husband is a photographer and got her started writing a blog.
[28:10] Robin was one of the first therapists to practice (and teach) EMDR. She advertised this certification training in workshops and other places. Writing books has been very helpful. She teaches suicide prevention for psychotherapists and has for a number of years.
[30:20] Robin says she’s not looking for new clients, she has to turn people away right now.
[30:38] Besides her therapy clients, Robin runs two group consultations (two hours long) a week, and one more consultation besides that. Consultations are her favorite work, and they pay well.
[32:21] Robin talks about the financial challenges over the years. In the beginning, it was just getting enough clients to pay the rent. She loves her work, so as long as she can pay the rent and insure her practice, she feels okay about finances. She does a blog for therapists, writes a column, and doesn’t find either of those things hard.
BIO – Robin Shapiro – Trauma Therapist, Seattle, WA
Robin Shapiro, LICSW, edited and contributed to EMDR Solutions: Pathways to Healing (Norton, 2005) and EMDR Solutions II: Depression, Eating Disorders, Performance & More (2009) and wrote Trauma Treatments Handbook (2010), and Easy Ego State Interventions (2016). She loves her work: writing; presenting about ego states, EMDR topics, and suicide prevention; doing clinical consultation; and her thirty-five years of psychotherapy practice, especially around issues of trauma, anxiety, and attachment. She is known for her humor, kindness, and teaching, writing, and consulting about complex issues in simple understandable language.
Robin Shapiro is a licensed social worker in Seattle Washington. She has 35 years experience as a practicing psychotherapist in the areas of issues of trauma, anxiety, and attachment. She is the author of several books on trauma and EMDR. She is known for her humor, kindness, teaching, writing, consulting. You can find out more about Robin at emdrsolutions.com.
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