A Community of Heart Profile: Gary Fulcher
Many of us - in this psychotherapeutic community - have faced our own trials and tribulations. Gary Fulcher is one of us who has turned his tragedy into an inspiration for us all.
In Sydney, Australia, during 1996, Gary had an accident while in his car. The outcome was that he was burned from head to toe, lost all of his fingers and had a severe inhalation injury. He was hospitalized in the Burn Unit at Concord Hospital. All of us in the EMDR community, who knew Gary, held our breaths and sent our prayers, as we waited to find out how he would be in the wake of his accident. I am happy to report that Gary is alive and well and as “wicked” as ever!
Gary is a native Australian from Sydney. He has had Psychology in his blood ever since he began Reading, his brother’s Psychology textbooks from University rather than doing his own high school homework! Despite his passion for the field, he had to delay his pursuit of Psychology after his father became ill. Three weeks before his final exams for University, Gary took over the family transport business (HG Fulcher & Son). He did finish his BA in 1971 at the University of New South Wales, and then spent the next 12 years managing the family business. During that time, he married and had 3 children (2 girls and 1 boy). By the late 70’s, he realized that “this was not the plan” and was able to return to school. He completed his first MA in 1980, where he also won the Simmat Prize. By 1983, he was awarded his Master of Psychology, along with the Martin Prize and in 1994 he received his Ph.D. All these degrees were from the University of Sydney.
Gary’s first job, after retiring from the transport business, was at the Developmental Disabilities Service at Laurel House, in Parramaata, where he was very interested in adults with intellectual disabilities. Due to his excellent academic record, Gary was approached by a psychiatrist who wanted assistance in doing research in Health Psychology.. In 1983, he began working as a Research Assistant at the Concord Hospital, a Veteran’s hospital affiliated with the University of Sydney. The first area of study was in the psychological aspects of cardiac health. Gary was intrigued and did his dissertation in the area of Quality of Life after coronary bypass surgery for patients and their spouses. In 1987, as his clinical interest in the field of Health Psychology was growing as well as his research acumen, Gary became the Director of the Department of Psychology at Concord Hospital.
During his work with the VA, Gary’s interest in working with war veterans and the field of trauma grew. As he read, more in the field of trauma, Gary learned about EMDR and Francine Shapiro. He was acquainted with Don Heggie who had worked with Dr. Shapiro and who invited him “to go across” to learn EMDR. It was in 1991 that Gary was trained and he became involved with the management of the early trainings that occurred in Australia. Later, he returned to the United States to become a facilitator and eventually, in 1994, a trainer. He trained EMDR practitioners all over Australia, in Japan and in South Africa. By this time, his day job was as a Research Coordinator/Clinical Consultant at St. John of God Hospital, Burwood.
“And then,” in Gary’s words: “I had my own trauma which was the accident of being burned. That was pretty interesting. I then used a modified EMDR to treat my own Acute Stress Disorder in the hospital. It was very funny! I used the standard EMDR approach and nearly killed myself! I created a continuous flashback and I couldn’t stop it. I realized it was not the way to go! Standard self-approach was just stupid! If I had listened to all the advice, I would never have done it! What I realized was that there was a different way. I could just use modified exposure. And so, I would do that. Gradually, as the distress lessened by using relaxation, centering and calming, I would then use the eye movements to reinforce the calmness. Exposure, calming, eye movements, exposure, calming, eye movements. That really worked well! The exposure, I guess, was for about an hour and then the eye movement reinforcing the calmness and to stress being in control and surviving and getting the process change.”
After the accident, Gary was in the hospital for 6 months and then was in Rehabilitation for 6 more months. After one year, he was ready to return to work, but it took the insurance companies 6 more months until they got him the equipment he needed, and had clearance from his physicians to return to work. He did not return to St. John of God Hospital, as they did not like his post-accident appearance. In 1998, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of New South Wales hired his as a Senior Clinical Psychologist and Research Development Officer. It is here that Gary’s personal and clinical experience has been integrated into and transformed his current clinical acumen.
As Gary says:
“I am a better psychologist. I just have a much more profound appreciation of life. I now have a whole range of disabilities, but none of them matter. And, I understand that. Now, I work with incredibly disabled people with MS, and I have a greater understanding what it means, and what it does not. It means that it does not prevent you from being a person and totally in life and every aspect of life. It does not mean that there is any part of life that you can’t have. And, I know that. I lived that, and when I now work with people that have disabilities -because I know that it does not rob me of any aspect of life - I can share that with people that I work with. It is part of my life and my philosophy. EMDR will, of course, be part of what I use. Also, I use it a lot with my MS clients. I find it most effective for alleviating the trauma aspect of their condition and their diagnosis. I have carried out some detailed research in this area and have some papers in preparation and review with “Journal of Traumatic Stress and Trauma Response.
Gary continues to be an active member of his professional and academic communities. He has been the Chairperson of the Australian Psychological Society and a Senior Supervisor. He has taught Clinical Masters and Doctoral students as an Associate at the Universities of Sydney, NSW, Wollongong, Macquarie and Western Sydney. He is a Consultant for the NSW Department of Heath, Department of Education, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Currently, he is the National Coordinator of EMDR Australasia. He is a full member of the Australian Psychological Society, the College of Clinical Psychologists, and the Australian Behavior Modification Association. He is a full international member of the Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy, and a member of the EMDR International Association. He has authored, co-authored and presented many articles and presentations in areas that include Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery, Diabetes, EMDR, Multiple Sclerosis, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Psychology, Schizophrenia, and Self-Injurious Behavior.
When I asked him if he had a message for the EMDR community he said the following;
“ My message to the EMDR community is to keep doing what they are doing. I remain impressed with the dedication to peace and to universal healing such as that organized by HAP. With EMDR now firmly established, I hope that its practitioners can forget the backyard critics and just continue using it effectively and accumulating the evidence for its efficacy. Maintenance of the highest standards and clinical competence is paramount and should be continually supported by the Institute and the Association. I am still training and am experimenting with a different format (same content) of small groups (8-10 participants only) over 3 full days, with 3 practicum opportunities and a greater emphasis on assessing the cognitions that drive the affect. It seems to be producing better and more confident practitioners.”
Gary’s creativity, intellectual integrity, and adaptability to change have flourished through the years. As an integral member of our EMDR community, he is a true inspiration to us all from his “wicked” humor to his profound understanding of suffering and transformation. We are all hoping to see him soon in the United States or his native Australia.