A Community of Heart Profile: A. J. Popky
AJ (short for Arnold Jay) Popky has always been an innovative thinker and curious about all life has to offer. Born to Rose and Charles Popky in Wilkes- Barre, PA, AJ was the youngest of three. His older brother by 11 years, Murray, and his older sister by 5 ½ years, Hilda, have been the lights in his life, guiding him with humor and heart through the many ups and downs of their family’s life path
One of the major themes throughout AJ’s life has been about service to his country. In fact, this trajectory began before he was born with his father’s Armed Forces Service in World War 1 where he saw active combat in France. AJ noted that this was his first experience with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, although he did not know that his father’s symptoms had a label until much later.
Another central theme crucial to understanding AJ was the fact that he had a learning disability that went undiagnosed until he was an adult. However, hand in hand with these difficulties went his unwavering persistence in going after what he wanted to achieve; a drive that is apparent again and again in his life.
In 1953, AJ graduated from Wyoming Seminary, a Prep school for the Naval Academy and college. He went off to Lehigh University to study Engineering. When he had difficulties academically, he decided to put his energy into something that would be more rewarding and he enlisted in the Marines. Joining in 1956 meant that he was too young for Korea and too old to serve in Vietnam. He spent most of his time at Parris Island, Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point and graduated from Parris Island the day after a famous incident where 6 Marines drowned in a creek. He served in the Marine Air Group 35 (MAG-35) which was part of the 2nd Marine Air Wing where he was an Aviation Electrician and was involved with flying boxcars. He was honorably discharged in 1958.
He returned home to Wilkes-Barre and attended Wilkes College where he graduated in 1960 with a BA in Mathematics.
Another theme in AJ’s life is his ability to find situations that have allowed him to be on the cutting edge of industry, computer technologies and any other field in which he holds an interest. AJ entered the world of computers during his first job after completing college in 1960. He worked at Vandenberg Air Force Base in the Pacific missile range. After this, he was sent to the East Coast/Atlantic missile range where he worked at Cape Canaveral as a Systems Engineer involved with guidance for the Atlas Missile. His job was to program the computers there. At the time, he would punch paper tape for a huge computer that –at the time- was not as powerful as our current laptops!
After working in Florida, he transferred to Cape Cod to Otis Air Force Base. However, his wandering spirit began to surface and he decided to change careers and become a photographer for The Falmouth Free Press and a bartender in the evenings. He was part of the press reception committee and in that capacity took many photographs of John Fitzpatrick Kennedy – although he never had the chance to meet him.
The yearning for knowledge was great and took him to the University of California’s Santa Barbara campus where he enrolled in Graduate School in Mathematics. Ever enterprising, he sold beauty products to make his way through school. When he found that he was having difficulties with his studies, he moved to New York City.
In 1964, AJ took a job as a Sales Engineer for Fairchild Semi-Conductor. This marked the beginning of Silicon Valley and AJ’s involvement with this new phenomenon. He worked with them for 3 years and later got a job in Sales for a company called Schweber Electronics and he managed the Fairchild line of Semi-Conductors.
By 1970-71, he was so successful at investing in the computer companies all of his friends were starting up that he was able to retire and do what his heart desired.
In 1972, Hurricane Agnes flooded Wilkes-Barre and AJ went back to help his family dig themselves out from the ravages of the flood. They evacuated to his brother’s dress factory on the hill. They slept there until his uncle’s hotel was cleaned up sufficiently so that the family could move in. His brother, sister and mother’s homes were all damaged by the flood and had to be cleaned and restored
AJ continued to be interested in education and went to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY to study architecture. When he had difficulty keeping up there, he moved to the University of Hawaii in 1973 and attended Graduate School there in Psychology. In 1975, when they reinstated the GI bill after Vietnam, the government paid for him to get his commercial pilot’s license.
By 1976, he lost all of his money in the stock market and moved back to NYC and again got a job in computer sales. At that time, he was selling the first voice recognition computers to companies as Lockheed, United Airlines, UPS and Remington Arms. When a love interest moved to California, he convinced his company to let him open up the western United States and he moved to Silicon Valley in California.
In 1978, he took a job in sales for Zylog, a company that built microprocessors. From there he went to other high-technology start-up companies where he set up, trained and managed the Sales organizations.
It was around this time that he became interested in NLP and Hypnosis so that he could hone his sales skills. He read everything he could about Hypnosis, starting with Leslie LeCron and then went on to study with John Grinder and later with Richard Bandler. He is qualified as an NLP Master Practitioner and NLP Accelerated Master Modeler. He is also certified in Ericksonian Hypnosis. He began to put on Sales Seminars under the name “Beyond Selling” Sales Seminars.
While he was attending an Hypnosis seminar he happened to meet a woman by the name of Francine Shapiro. At the time, Francine was teaching at San Jose State at and it was in one of her classes that Francine met Robbie Dunton and introduced AJ to Robbie. They all became friends. During this time Francine was working on her dissertation and wrote her landmark EMDR study on his computer.
AJ and Robbie moved to Grass Valley near Tahoe where AJ was selling consumer electronics stereo equipment and earning his Real Estate license. When AJ and Robbie moved back to Los Gatos around 1990, Francine had developed the EMDR training and the three began putting on trainings together. At the time, the EMDR Institute was administered from Francine’s office at MRI. When all the administrators that Francine tried were ineffective, Robbie finally took over and the strong business alliance between Francine and Robbie was born. AJ designed the Institute software database and became the computer-go-to person for the Institute.
Again, AJ was inspired to return to school after Francine made the decision to only train licensed people in EMDR. However, every time he would get near his schoolbooks he would have a panic attack. During his own EMDR work, he remembered an incident when he was thrown out of school in 4 th grade. This session took care of the panic but he was still unable to read. At that point, Robbie, a learning specialist, figured out that AJ must have a learning disability and arranged to have him tested. At 58 years old, AJ learned that the problems that he was having with learning were the result of having Dyslexia, ADHD and an Auditory Processing problem. He began to take medication for the ADHD and, in January 1994, he received his MA in Psychology from Sierra University. This was such a magnificent accomplishment that his EMDR friends and supporters roasted him at the Palm in NYC! It was a great achievement and it proved to be one of those memorable EMDR events.
Through the hypnosis work that he was doing, he felt that he had found something else that he was good at and he decided to pursue it. His inspiration was a client who was referred by her mother. Her presenting problem was that she wanted to stop smoking, however, she was also using Valium, Marijuana and Cocaine. AJ had been working on a Smoking Cessation Protocol and used this with her. Ten days later, she called for another appointment. When AJ asked about her smoking, the woman said that nothing had changed but that she had been strung out smoking Heroin and since they had used his Smoking Cessation Protocol she had no more desire to smoke Heroin! AJ was intrigued and went back in his mind to think about what he had done. He realized that while he was working on smoking, he had never said cigarettes and the woman had translated it to the Heroin she had been smoking instead of the cigarettes. He wrote about the Smoking Protocol in the EMDR Network Newsletter of December 1992 and then went on to present on it at the EMDR Conference in 1993.
With this turn of events, he went on to develop what he called the Integrative EMDR Addiction Protocol and presented it at the EMDR Conferences of 1994-1996.
In 1996, when the EMDR International Association was formed AJ was made a Lifetime Charter member a long with Francine Shapiro, Robbie Dunton and Ellie Ryan.
By 1998, he joined Silke Vogelmann-Sine, Larry F. Sine, Nancy Smyth and they put together a manual on the subject of chemical addiction called “EMDR: Chemical Dependency Treatment Manual.” The authors contributed the manual to the Humanitarian Assistance Program. It can be purchased at www.emdrhap.org
After he completed his MA, he decided he wanted to go of for his Ph.D. He attended The International University of Professional Studies and was granted his degree in Counseling Psychology in 2003. His dissertation was on the evolved addictions protocol which he called “The DeTUR Protocol: a new way of addressing addictions and dysfunctional behaviors.” DeTUR stands for desensitization of triggers and urge reprocessing. He presented this model at the 2003 EMDRIA International Conference and wrote a chapter in “EMDR Solutions”, edited by Robin Shapiro, on the subject. He has presented his model at EMDR Part 2 trainings and in specialized trainings in Philadelphia, Kansas City, Florida, Berkeley, and at Camp Pendleton.
In December 2004, he was granted that license he was pursuing with such persistence and has been a licensed Marriage and Family therapist since then.
When asked what he would like to say to the EMDR community, AJ replied:
“We have got to clean up from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. We owe it to these military people to do our best to help them heal. This is especially true in Iraq since we are exposing them to horrible experiences that they have not been trained to handle, multiple return visits, and utilization of the Reserves and the National Guard. We are pushing them past health and there are not enough therapists out there trained to work with this population. Since the present government is not doing enough, I believe it is up to us therapists who have been trained in working with PTSD. As a MARINE, I feel that it is my obligation.” . Currently, AJ has a private practice in the Los Angeles area and consults to other therapists on EMDR. He also conducts training on the DeTUR model and volunteers for HAP trainings at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Los Angeles, at Camp Pendleton and as a Consultant with the Yaqui Indian tribe for a Bridge Course between Parts 1 and 2.
AJ continues to be interested in tennis, reading and his work with veterans. He has been known to give away his chicken soup under his own label, “Uncle AJ’s Chicken Soup” and he cooks an amazing Cioppino. His latest love is his dog “Fi” short for Semper Fidelis, the Marine’s dictum.
AJ Popky’s life trajectory has been one filled with hurdles. His persistence, keen sense of fun and dedication are hallmarks of who he is. We are lucky to have this creative and interested man among us in our EMDR community.