A Community of Heart Profile: Louise Maxfield



Louise Maxfield has been one of the most prolific and interesting women that I know. She was born in Southend-on-Sea in London to parents who found each other in a hospital ward during WW2 when her father was dying from a ruptured appendix and her mother was his nurse. He proclaimed that he had to live because she was an angel! And, so he did.

Louise’s father, Ted was a radar specialist in the Royal Air Force. His expertise was a great asset when the family immigrated to Canada, and he joined the Canadian Air Force in the same capacity, moving his family at least twelve times by the time that Louise was 9 years old! Veronica Retallack was born in Pakistan when it was part of India where her father was an officer in the Royal British Army. Louise was the eldest of four sisters. Her second sister died from a respiratory ailment when Louise was 4 years old. This created a huge impact on her and her family and she felt vulnerable because you can suddenly be gone for no clear reason. This feeling was reinforced by the frequent moving, when she regularly had to adapt to different schools, different rules and new friends. She learned that “things change and you have no control and people are gone.” Louise became a cautious and shy child and adolescent.

She and her sisters attended classes for gifted children for four years after they settled in Ottawa. These were formative times and the girls were regularly challenged to think creatively and independently and were exposed to many new things. By the time she was ready for university, she was 17 and majoring in Math and Physics at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario. She liked that they were very predictable subjects that did not leave much to interpretation. However, when she took her compulsory psychology course, she was amazed as she realized that people were far more interesting than something in a test tube! She changed her major to psychology and never looked back. By this time, Louise was becoming less shy and more self-assured, gaining confidence with success in various leadership roles.

When she graduated, her very first job was as a research assistant, working with Donald Meichenbaum, before he became famous for his work with cognitive-behavioral therapy. They worked at a reform school for girls who had committed serious crimes. She did not think that the CBT program was helpful for the girls but she did learn about research. She went on to work in Child Protective Services as a social worker, providing therapy, apprehending children and handling foster placements and adoptions. Here, she learned how the system worked and its effect on children, and how workers had to be aware of the inherent power in their position. After this, Louise became a stay-at-home mom with her two daughters and later her son.

By the mid-1980’s, Louise worked as a therapist with adult sexual abuse survivors and families with abused children in British Columbia. It was an exciting time as people were just becoming aware of this issue and Louise was at the forefront devising innovative group programs and Awareness Workshops on the topic. Ultimately, she and her group received a contract from the government to do a 20-day training program in each of seven different cities in the southern interior of the province from 1991-1993; all therapists were required to learn how to work with sexually abused children and their families. She felt it was “so dynamic and transformative to be on the cusp of the world changing around this issue.”

In 1990, she became a Registered Clinical Counselor in the BC Association of Clinical Counselors. By 1993 Louise took the EMDR Basic Training in San Jose, California from Francine Shapiro. She was impressed with the effective results and the unusual protocol and used it at her sexual abuse agency and in private practice. She became very intrigued about its mechanism of action, and wished that she knew how to do EMDR research.

Louise was in a major motor vehicle accident in 1995 and it took her 6 months to recover. Although Louise had completed the requirements to become a Certified Trauma Specialist, she realized that she did not have the skills and knowledge she needed to conduct research to answer some of the fascinating questions about EMDR that she had been thinking about. She decided to go back to study and found Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Here, the curriculum was dynamic and innovative and the professors were “really interesting people.” She felt that these were the best years of her life as she paired all her years of clinical work with a vast store of new knowledge and the opportunity to conduct research. She liked it so much that she not only did her MA but her Ph.D. as well, winning the Governor General’s Award. During that time she won a Social Science and Health Research Council Doctoral Fellowship and three Ontario Graduate Scholarships in national and provincial competitions.

Louise’s first research project, in 1997, was a study of single-session EMDR treatment of test anxiety and found that EMDR reduced levels of test anxiety from the 90th percentile to the 50th percentile at a one-month follow-up.

Francine Shapiro was the external reviewer on her paper. Spin-offs from an initial collaboration with Charles Figley resulted in Louise’s first publication on EMDR. By 1999, she went to the University of British Columbia for part of her internship and worked as an investigator with Steve Taylor on a project comparing EMDR, Exposure, and Relaxation therapies. She also conducted a meta-analysis that found that the more rigorous EMDR studies produced larger effect sizes. After this, Louise investigated the role of eye movements in EMDR, finding support for working memory theory, with faster eye movements more effective than slow movements in reducing the vividness and emotionality of distressing memories.

In 2000, as a result of her interest and work concerning EMDR Therapy, Louise became Francine’s assistant. She worked with her for 2 ½ years while doing her Ph.D. studies, which she completed in 2003. During that time, she learned that she was a good editor and could help people write and develop research designs. During her work with Francine she coauthored papers; provided information about EMDR and related research to the public, research and clinical communities; edited and reviewed articles and chapters about EMDR; provided an international networking function; and advised researchers regarding research designs and outcome measures. She continues to collaborate with Francine on various projects and co-edited with Florence Kaslow, the “Handbook of EMDR and Family Therapy Processes (Wiley, 2007).

After completing her Ph.D., and working as a child psychologist in a family treatment center for two years, she moved to London, Ontario where she worked in an acute care outpatient hospital setting. Her job was providing Dialectical Behavior Therapy and EMDR to adult patients with Complex PTSD and severe psychopathology.

She also was an Independent Expert Assessor for the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat and did expert assessments and court testimony for members of First Nations to assess the level of harm to which they had been subjected as children in residential treatment centers. This important forensic work required an intensive focus and meticulous care.

From July 2006 until the present, she has been our illustrious Founding Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of EMDR Practice and Research. Our international readership has over 15,000 subscribers and is ranked in the top 100 for number of downloads among IngentaConnect’s 15,000 journals! The journal is the official journal for both EMDRIA and EMDR Europe. Louise really enjoys her work as an editor. She loves encouraging and mentoring authors, and feels very privileged to assist in the dissemination of important material about EMDR. This is her great passion. She sees the journal as an important tool in bringing together the world-wide EMDR community, by sharing information, creating networks, and sparking new research. The journal provides a voice for EMDR clinicians and researchers around the world.

She has been a member of the EMDRIA Research Committee from 2000 to the present. She also reviews articles for many other journals including JAMA, Journal of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, Journal of Psychological Trauma, etc. Since 2007, she has been an EMDRIA Approved Consultant. She has provided consultation to EMDR therapists and has been supervising psychology graduate students in their internship residencies (2006-2013) and in their practicum placements (2003-2013). Also, she was a member of the Early Psychosis Intervention Working Group for Northwestern Ontario (2004-2005). She has been an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychology for Western University since 2008, and was an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Western University (2006-2006) and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychology at Lakehead University (2005-2015). Her research interests include best practices for treating PTSD and other anxiety disorders; affect dysregulation and dissociation and their role in the development of psychiatric disorders; patient characteristics predicting treatment response for patient-treatment matching, and treatment outcomes concerning the mechanisms of action.

Louise has been awarded many different awards for her academic excellence as well as her research competence. In 2008, she was awarded the Francine Shapiro Award by EMDRIA for her outstanding contribution and service to EMDR. She received the Research Award from both EMDRIA (2001) and EMDR Canada (2003) for her excellence in EMDR Research. She has a long list of publications on subjects ranging from EMDR humanitarian projects to explaining the effects of eye movements from a working memory perspective to the treatment of recent traumas and community disasters, etc. She has done many plenary and keynote presentations on EMDR for EMDR Canada and EMDRIA. She also has refereed many conference presentations for these same organizations. She has done more than 100 presentations on radio and television and for public groups and organizations concerning mental health, trauma, abuse, posttraumatic stress, parenting and related issues.

Louise would like to say this to the EMDR Community:

I would really like to encourage EMDR therapists to write articles for the Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, to share their considerable expertise with other clinicians in our worldwide community. Many clinicians and clients could benefit from your instruction! I would also like to encourage individual therapists to conduct simple research in their clinical practice. You could evaluate the effectiveness of your modifications to the standard procedures or investigate the effectiveness of your treatment with a new population, and then disseminate these results in a published research report. This type of work and communication is so essential and important in the development and growth of EMDR practice as well as in our understanding of EMDR’s potential and its mechanisms of action. An individual therapist can play an important part in moving the field forward.

In April 2013, Louise had another physical setback and she has worked hard to recover. The EMDR family pulled together to assist her and she is now where she wants to be. She moved to Ottawa last September and has been enjoying her new home, and the parks and trails that are only 15 minutes from where she lives with her 6-month old puppy. Already, she has signed up for two courses at Carleton University and is enjoying oil painting and taking photographs. She is settling comfortably into her retirement. However, although she has retired from clinical practice, she plans to continue as the Journal editor “forever”.

Louise is an excellent clinician and researcher as well as an EMDR Therapy champion. We thank her for all these years of dedication and service to our community.


“A Community of Heart Profile: Louise Maxfield,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed July 15, 2024, https://francineshapirolibrary.omeka.net/items/show/25396.

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