A Community of Heart Profile: Jennifer Lendl



Jennifer Lendl is the epitome of the Renaissance woman. She is a multilingual world traveler, an academic with advanced degrees in history and psychology, a champion swimmer, a champion of women’s causes, a public and human relations specialist, an accomplished writer and speaker, an authority on youth suicide, and an advocate and activist for improving the individual and professional response of the psychological community to public needs.”

This first sentence from a statement about Jennifer Lendl as one of the nominees for the San Jose Mercury News Women’s “Women of Achievement” award sums Jennifer and her accomplishments up precisely.

And, all of it is true!

Jennifer Lendl is a native of California. She learned her love for sports from her parents. Gerry Lendl was a well-known football player for Loyola University and entertained the troops in World War II with his sports abilities. Joyce Lendl loved the beach and it was from her that Jennifer learned her love of swimming and later began competing from the age of eight. She spent a great deal of time with her grandmother and when she remarried and went to Youngstown, Ohio, Jennifer followed every summer. With her grandparents, she experienced a larger world. They travelled to the World’s Fair, Cape Cod and for her sixteenth birthday, they went to Europe. She also competed in Ohio and attended the Junior Olympics in swimming. From her step-grandfather, she learned to fish and fly a Cessna plane before she learned to drive.

By the end of High School, Jennifer was so tired from all of her activities and responsibilities that she did not have the strength to apply for colleges and pulled on the reliable support of her mother to help her in this transition. The seeds of Jennifer’s ability to be a leader in her community were present from early on. She was always in Student Government as president, vice-president and/or class representative. She was the editor of the school paper and early on became the statistician for the varsity boys’ baseball, football, tennis, and basketball teams. In high school, she reported for 5 newspapers on these statistics with a byline in some of them. Jen also received letters for varsity girls’ track, basketball, softball, tennis and volleyball. Even with all of these activities, she managed to be a member of the National Honor Society, winning awards in social studies, journalism, school service, and leadership. She was the first student from Simi Valley High School to get into Stanford University.

Parallel with her excelling in every endeavor that she undertook, she had a strange propensity for getting into motor vehicle accidents and having head injuries. The first one was in utero when her parents rolled their car and her mother cracked her neck. Altogether, Jen has been in 15 motor vehicle accidents. No matter what her injury or injuries, Jen has fought her way back to functioning up to her high standard of excellence. She had a major motor vehicle accident during her first semester at Stanford University. She took time out because of her medical injuries. She returned to Stanford ending up as a history major and graduating with her class.

She continued her statistics work with the male teams for Stanford and was the first woman to be allowed into the lofty –no women allowed- third tier pressroom for newspaper reporters! This skill later translated into a job as team recorder for the Stanford football team that lasted for 13 years. While at Stanford, she also taught the children of the faculty how to swim. She started a swim team that began with 15 members and grew to 150 children ages 2-18 by her fifth and final year.

Jen spent part of her sophomore year in Florence, Italy where she learned Italian and connected with the Florentines by joining the community pool. She was later to return to Florence for a year after she had received her MA from Stanford in History and translated for the German teams at the European games that were held there before returning to California.

When she returned from Florence, Jen was ready for something new. A friend took her to a psychodrama group and she found it interesting enough that she went on to take a psychology course and later applied to the Clinical Community Psychology program at San Jose State; she received her MS in 1982. During her master’s work, she herself was the target of a sexual harassment situation. As a result, she was being sent the most difficult-to-treat patients. The silver lining of this maneuver by an unprofessional professor was that Jen -rising to the occasion as always- became an expert on youth suicide and was asked to be part of the National Institute of Health Task Force on Youth Suicide. Jen has a real knack for turning adversity into opportunity.

When she completed her MS, she began to work for the Santa Clara County Commission for the Status of Women, a government group that dealt with women’s rights. Through her active participation in this commission, Jen ended up on the Women’s Committee for the Sheriff of the County and began her wide range of political activities from working on 3 mayoral campaigns to one for the state assemblyman. At the time, she was also the Government Relations Chair for the Santa Clara Psychological Association and was a member of the state and county psychological trauma response committee. She also was the Chair for Division 6 of the California Media Division.

Later, she attended the International College at the invitation of the new dean, Sylvia Gonzalez, and taught in the Clinical Psychology Department for the International College. In 1984, she went on to receive her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.

As she was studying for her licensing exam, Jen was in another motor vehicle accident. This time she had a head injury and could not remember any of her material for the test. She had to learn to read and write again. She was able to walk but had no balance; she was unable to move without falling down. Her health insurance had been changed and, at the time of the accident, she had no coverage. Again, Jen’s extended network of friends came through for her, taking her to her medical appointments and helping her out. She taught her self to read again by replicating her early experience of reading comic books, Nancy Drew and newspapers. She was able to pass her written test but when she went to take her oral exam, although all concerned knew that she understood the material, she was unable to verbalize it. She took it 6 months later and completed the requirements for licensing.

In 1989, she went to a brown bag lunch at the Giaretto Institute for Trauma. This was the first time that Jennifer Lendl encountered Francine Shapiro. At first, the audience were rolling their eyes and wondering what in the world this woman was talking about, until they saw the videotape that Francine showed of her work with a veteran from Vietnam. After the showing of the tape, the whole room grew quiet and Jen could not believe what she was seeing. Jen met Francine again after the 1989 earthquake. She was on the Trauma Response Team and had written a survey with David Aguilera on the “Multidiscipline Survey of Therapist Reported Patient Response to the October 17, 1989 Earthquake” and Francine showed up at the Santa Clara County meeting. Francine recognized Jen and asked her to join her newly formed EMDR group. Jen agreed and her history with EMDR began.

Jen was intrigued by Francine’s passion and excitement for the work. She helped Francine on the early manual and with the protocol. Experimenting with using EMDR with close members of her inner circle who were dying, Jen helped with the formulation of working with those who were dying with EMDR. She characterized her response to Francine in the following way:

Francine had this sense of wanting to help the pain in the world and a sense that if we could make a change one on one and continue to make the change, stop the stress, stop the pain, we could bring peace. We were encouraged to explore EMDR and to write and do research in our specialty areas. We were to write, write, write…and we all wanted to work on this.

In those early days, there were monthly Saturday meetings in Palo Alto where the group members would get together and talk about EMDR. In 1991, they began more formal trainings and they would be on the road teaching 3-4 weekends a month; this went on for several years. At a certain point, Francine realized that she could not go on moving at this pace and she decided to train trainers. Jen was one of the initial twelve chosen.

During those early years, Jen was active in promoting EMDR at hospitals, mental health associations, government organizations, with California state legislators and colleagues and with sports organizations. She was interviewed on television, radio, and for newspapers and magazines and served on the first EMDR Professional and Ethics Committee (1991-1993). She was active in speaking at conferences and was a wise advisor for those already practicing EMDR. She spent a year at the California Naval Base as a Trauma Specialist handling Desert Shield and Desert Storm trauma. She has presented at Level II trainings nationally and internationally on “EMDR and the Military” and “EMDR and Performance Enhancement.” She was one of two facilitators who had the idea to have the first EMDR Institute conference and went on to initiate the whole concept and get the program set up. She was one of the people who encouraged Francine to extend the training and create a facilitator training. She was the Co- Founder and Chair of both the EMDR International Association Performance SIG and the Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology EMDR SIG.

By 1991, realizing the importance of integrating her knowledge of EMDR with her first love of performance enhancement for sports and other areas, Jen did an internship with Bruce Ogilvie, the grandfather of Sports Psychology. As Jen made the transition from clinical to sports psychology, Dr. Ogilvie provided her with exactly what she needed for this life change. In Jen’s own right she has gone on to teach us about the integration of EMDR and Sports Psychology writing the “Personal Training Guide to Tennis” (Performance Enhancement Unlimited, 1995) and then, with Sam Foster, “EMDR for Performance at Work: A Professional Manual” (HAP, 1996; rev. 2003). Recently, they have published “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Four case studies of a new tool for executive coaching and restoring employee performance after setbacks” (in R.R. Kilburg & R.C Diedrich, 2007). She also has sat on dissertation committees for EMDR and Performance topics.

In 1998, she began to work at the Amen Clinic with Daniel Amen. Their work together resulted in Dr. Amen’s interest in EMDR and later study, in 2005, “High-resolution brain SPECT imaging and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing in police officers with PTSD” for the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience.

Jennifer wanted to say this about the EMDR community: I cherish my connections with the EMDR community. It is like a family, however, this is a family that is ever expanding. I hope that we will continue to support each other. I want to thank Francine for her wonderful gift of healing, community and inspiration.

Jennifer has continued to be an active member of the EMDR community. In 2006, she received the Francine Shapiro Award from the EMDR International Association for her contribution to EMDR. Despite another catastrophic motor vehicle accident in 2007, she has come back better than ever and continues to work her magic with her patients, her colleagues and all who know her. As one of the participants who commented on her “Performance and EMDR Workshop” wrote:”

“Jennifer, each time, I have heard of your work or had the pleasure of hearing you present, I have been impressed by your expertise, creativity, professionalism, and heart. You are a consummate professional, a wonderful person, and a gift to us all.”

We are fortunate to have Jennifer herself–and all that she has to offer- as part of our community.


“A Community of Heart Profile: Jennifer Lendl,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed July 15, 2024, https://francineshapirolibrary.omeka.net/items/show/7670.

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