A Community of Heart Profile: John Spector

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When I think back to when I learned EMDR compared to now, I marvel at the numbers of people who are trained in this methodology. I can go anywhere in the world and know that there will be some eager mental health care worker wanting “to talk EMDR.” In the early days of EMDR European trainings, there were several sponsors who were excited about the success that they achieved when working with EMDR and they decided to become sponsors in their countries. John Spector took the lead in the United Kingdom.

As I became acquainted with this smart, debonair, man with the twinkle in his eye, I knew that we were lucky to have him working on behalf of EMDR in the United Kingdom. Not only has he sponsored trainings in the United Kingdom, he has become a leader in the international community in his support of EMDR at the levels of practitioner, facilitator, consultant, reviewer, researcher, presenter and organizer.

John was alerted to EMDR through his psychologist wife, Karen, as she was reading through the literature. With Joseph Wolpe’s seal of approval, John and a colleague, Mark Hathwaite, decided to put this “interesting but bizarre” new therapy to the test by trying it out on each other. Mark was a South African army veteran who had a traumatic experience during his military service. John noted that Francine’s method seemed to have a dramatic and beneficial effect on Mark’s memory of the event. John and Mark’s EMDR careers had unofficially begun!

Encouraged by their success with Mark’s traumatic memory, they began to use EMDR with other clients presenting with trauma. In 1993, they published an article on one of their successful treatments of a trauma survivor in the British Journal of Psychiatry. John was delighted that this article marked not only the first publication in the British scientific literature but the first European article on EMDR. What followed was “a great burgeoning of interest in the scientific literature in Europe on EMDR.”

John decided it was time to be trained by Francine herself and in 1993 took the EMDR Institute trainings in New York and then San Jose. He became one of the first European practitioners trained in EMDR. Enthused with his EMDR successes, John decided to host the first EMDR Institute training in London.

Seventy-five brave souls appeared and the British enthusiasm for EMDR had begun! In 1995, the ground swell of EMDR clinicians in Britain grew to the point that they formed the British EMDR Association of UK and Ireland. At this time, there are 600 British clinicians trained in EMDR. This organization represents EMDR in the United Kingdom and is a member of EMDR-Europe. In fact, it was on British soil, that the seeds for EMDR-Europe began with Richard Mitchell at its helm. John played a seminal role in these historic events. Currently, he continues to be the British EMDR Institute sponsor and the Training Officer for EMDR UK and Ireland.

John is Head of Clinical Psychology at Watford General Hospital in the United Kingdom. Here, he directs a “unique” Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Clinic. Although his clinic is a part of the British National Health Service, it is unique because it is funded from outside sources such as doctors, lawyers, transport and emergency organizations, etc. who are willing to pay for their clients to be treated. The clinic has attracted national recognition and has had excellent outcomes when working with EMDR. John is also a Consultant Clinical Psychologist.

And, still, John found he could do more! He has been very active in the domains of research, information and the media. Not only did he publish his 1993 paper, in 1999, he published a review paper entitled “The Current Status of EMDR” which has been used as a touchstone in the EMDR efficacy debate. He gives talks on EMDR throughout the year to hospitals, psychotherapy groups, The Tavistock Institute, The Royal Army Medical Corp, and annual conferences of the British Cognitive Behavioral Association. He has presented at major PTSD conferences in the United Kingdom and he has spoken on BBC Radio about EMDR. Also, he has published newspaper articles on the subject of EMDR. He is a member of the United Kingdom Trauma Group through which he has the chance to interact with all the guiding lights in the trauma field in the UK. With great personal satisfaction, John reports that, “the general climate towards EMDR in the clinical and academic communities has changed from initial antipathy to acceptance of EMDR as a mainline treatment for trauma. This acceptance is mirrored at PTSD Conferences here where EMDR is usually referred to with significant respect.

On the personal side, I can attest to the fact that he is happily married to Karen, a lovely woman and friend who is also EMDR-trained! Together they enjoy tennis, travel, and reading and long walks in the English countryside that include “stopovers at pubs”! He is very proud of his two daughters who are in the twenties and accomplished in their own right. One has made a name for herself in the field of the psychological treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and the other has just started her first job as a production assistant in the film industry.

John’s hopes for the future are “for EMDR to be widely accepted and acknowledged in the scientific literature and for EMDR Europe to consolidate and develop EMDR throughout Europe with great vigor”! With John at the helm, I am not worried! Thank you John for your spirit, vitality and heart!


“A Community of Heart Profile: John Spector,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed July 15, 2024, https://francineshapirolibrary.omeka.net/items/show/7689.

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