All posts by transformativetherapy

Sarah is a holistic therapist specializing in hypnotherapy, guided meditation, and energy clearing. She is a student of the chakras & meridians and their related emotions, as well as esoteric healing and spiritual principles.

Hypnotherapy and guided imagery for cancer care

Research has demonstrated that mental health therapy is helpful for people who have been diagnosed with cancer. Transformative Therapy is a private therapy practice in Bryn Mawr, PA. We specialize in supporting clients who have cancer and other serious illnesses.

Our integrative approach includes hypnosis, guided imagery, relaxation, and visualization to promote healing and recovery.

Research shows that guided imagery and hypnotherapy can help :

  • Increase feelings of well-being
  • Reduce feelings of depression
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Reduce side effects of cancer treatment
  • Improve quality of life
  • Reduce fear and anxiety prior to surgery
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce pain, including post-operative pain
  • Temporarily increase numbers of immune system cells
  • Reduce blood pressure, stress, anxiety, and pain
  • Create relaxing brain wave patterns
  • Reduce anticipatory nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy
  • Reduce cancer pain and distress
  • Reduce pain, nausea, fatigue, discomfort, and emotional upset

Sources:  The American Cancer Society Cancer.org; The Mayo Clinic; Breastcancer.org; Anesthesia and Analgesia

Breast cancer and the LoA: Please don’t be afraid to feel afraid

In my therapy practice in Bryn Mawr, I work with women who have breast cancer. They are often afraid of their fear: the Law of Attraction has become a monster for them. The issue is the LoA and how it applies – and does not apply – to getting and fighting cancer.

I have studied the LoA for years. There is a lot of (I believe rather immature) stuff on the internet about the LoA. “Think well and you will be well”, the teaching goes. I think it grossly oversimplifies the case.

And worse, I think it freaks people out.

Is there nothing to fear but fear itself?

So many women I work with are freaking out because they are scared, and they are scared of being scared. This puts them in a bind. They can’t begin to grapple with the fear, move through it, and let it move through them, because they are afraid that in being afraid they are making themselves sicker.

Because they are afraid of the power of their fear they don’t allow themselves to express it. Consequently, their fear has no way out. It grows in the darkness. And worse, these women feel shame because they have fear.

For most of us, a cancer diagnosis is @%*&# scary.

And then things get better. Most of the time – by far, most of the time – my clients do, too. They learn about treatment options and they start the marathon. They find out that the sun still rises and they still laugh and have fun.

The marathon ends and they reflect on how much they have gained: they know a lot about mindfulness and meditation, complementary therapies, nutrition and natural beauty products. They have learned to tell the people they love that they love them. They don’t sweat the small stuff.

But for many women, the road to recovery is fraught with the boogey man named LoA. They come to me and cry: I am afraid, and I am afraid that my fear is killing me. If I let myself feel afraid, am I making my cancer grow? I am afraid to let myself feel afraid, and I’m still afraid. I have no power over this fear. It feels like life and death.

Don’t suppress your emotions.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers. But I know my clients. I read the research. I talk to people. I listen. And I can tell you that there is not a shred of evidence that feeling afraid makes people sicker. On the other hand, there is research, including a study of 94 women with recurrent or metastatic breast cancer, showing that unprocessed trauma hurts.

David Spiegel, M.D., one of the study authors, says “people do better in the aftermath of traumatic stress if they deal with it directly. Facing, rather than fleeing it, is important… In other words, don’t suppress your emotions.”

Please. Don’t. Suppress. Your. Emotions.

Emotions are not “good” or “bad”. What we do with them, however, has consequences. Suppressed emotions can cause some serious mischief. Keeping our fear pushed down is exhausting. And it’s inauthentic. And we can’t heal what we can’t allow ourselves to feel.

I think that having a dialogue with our feelings is healthy. In English we say “I AM afraid”. Other languages express it as “I HAVE fear”, and there is a certain mindful distancing that comes from framing our emotions this way.

What I want to say to my clients, to all the women who are fighting the fight, to you, is this:

Please don’t punish yourself by fearing your fear. Let yourself feel your feelings. Let the fear move through you. You will find yourself on the other side of that feeling and see how much you have grown.

EFT Quick Start Guide

EFT, the Emotional Freedom Techniques, is a member of the energy psychology (EP) family of psychotherapies. These therapies combine Western psychology methods, mainly drawing on cognitive and behavior principles, with Eastern energy-based healing principles, including acupoint stimulation and chakra balancing. This mind-body approach allows EP techniques to facilitate rapid, positive change. EFT involves acupoint tapping with exposure to an emotionally-charged memory. In my therapy practice in Bryn Mawr, clients are making big changes with EFT.

What is EFT?

EFT combines acupoint stimulation with exposure to an emotionally-charged memory or experience. EFT is built on the theory that every emotional problem is rooted in a block in the energy system because any traumatic event, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can cause a blockage in an energy meridian. This blockage can be thought of as similar to a droplet of water inside a drinking straw. Just as we can tap on a straw to release a trapped water droplet, we can tap on an acupoint to remove a block from the meridian.

EFT can be used as a self-help tool as well as in clinical therapeutic settings. It is an effective tool for working with specific traumatic events, such as accidents and medical diagnoses, as well as more broad-based and seemingly intractable issues, such as depression or low self-esteem. We conceptualize this type of broader issue as a “table top” which is supported by traumatic, though often seemingly insignificant, life events or “table legs”. Using EFT, we remove each of the table legs until the table top collapses.

The EFT Protocol

In EFT, we tap on the side of the hand while repeating a setup statement: “Even though I have this problem, I deeply and completely accept myself.” Then we tap on a series of points while just repeating the problem: “But I have this problem.” Before tapping, we assess our subjective units of distress (SUDS). After one round, or several rounds, of tapping, the SUDS will lower to a 0 or 1.

What Does the Research Say?

Researchers in Seoul, South Korea have identified a physical substrate in the body, composed of very small blood vessels, which correspond with the acupuncture meridian system. These vessels comprise what researchers have named the primo vascular system, and seem to transport biophotons, or biologically emitted photon beams of light. This may be the first scientific explanation of the flow of chi.

While researchers in the East have been studying the body’s energy system, researchers in the West have been studying the effects of EP, including EFT. More than 100 studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals, and 98% have found energy psychology modalities to be effective. To date, four meta-analyses have been conducted, demonstrating a moderate to strong effect size. In the past five years alone, more than fifty studies have found EFT and similar meridian-tapping therapies to be effective for treating depression, PTSD, other anxiety disorders, food cravings, pain, and other physiological symptoms, including blood sugar management and side effects of cancer treatment drugs.

The Takeaway

EFT involves tapping on acupoints while remembering a traumatic event from the past, or while experiencing upset in the present. It is safe and easy to learn, and is an effective tool to relieve many forms of emotional and even physical distress. It may be the best psychotherapy you’d never heard of! Ready to learn more? Get in touch to start your journey to a happier life today.

EFT, the emotional freedom techniques

EFT, the emotional freedom techniques, is a simple, evidence-based technique that can help us resolve our emotional issues quickly and easily. In EFT, we tap on a series of acupressure points while thinking about an issue. In my therapy practice in Bryn Mawr, I have helped many clients make big changes using this simple process.

How to do EFT

When we start tapping on a problem, we might rate our emotional upset at near a 10 on a scale of 1-10. By the time we finish tapping, maybe repeating the series a couple of times, our emotional upset will disappear or nearly disappear, down to a 0 or 1. The whole process can take just a couple of minutes.

 

What counts as a trauma? “Big T and Little t” Traumas

Most of the time, our big emotional blocks – things like low self-esteem, thinking we are undeserving or unlovable, or even being afraid to drive on a highway – are actually built up over time because of traumatic events in our past.

This does not mean that we have all had huge traumas. Sadly, many people have had “big-T” traumas – things that involve violence, accidents, shock. But for most of us, it’s the “little-t” traumas that cause our problems.

“Little-t”  traumas are things that are upsetting or incidents that we interpret in an unhelpful way. These can be things like “the time Dad yelled at me”, “the time my classmates all laughed at me”, “the time I failed the spelling test”, etc. Built up over time, these can become the pillars that underlie our larger issues.

The table metaphor

In EFT, we use the metaphor of a tabletop and table legs. The over-arching problem, like low self-esteem, can be thought of as a tabletop; it is being held by the unresolved issues, or “table legs”. Best-practice for EFT is not to treat, or “tap on”, the tabletop, but rather to tap on the legs. We break its legs, and the table collapses.

Each of these “legs” can be conceptualized as a movie that lasts about two minutes, with a beginning, middle, and end. The movie can have a few crescendos. Each of those crescendos are appropriate for our EFT tapping intervention.

Our tables may be held up by ten different legs. Not all of the legs are equally strong. Some legs we rate at a 10 on a scale of 1-10; others may only rate as a 2 or 3. Interestingly, after we treat one or two of the legs, all the other legs seem to get a little smaller until the whole problem is resolved. If we have identified ten “legs” that underlie a problem, we may treat just six of them for the problem to get resolved.

 

The Recipe

Want to give it a try? The picture below shows the EFT tapping points. The basic EFT “recipe” is this:

Begin by tapping, using all your fingers of one hand, on the outside of your other hand while repeating the setup statement and affirmation below. Do this two times:

Even though I have (this problem), I deeply  and completely accept myself.

Then tap on the points while repeating the problem:

But I have this problem…this problem…this problem that’s an 8 on a 10-scale…this time that ______…this ____ problem … this 8 …this time that _____ … this problem

EFT Tapping Points
TH: Top of Head
EB: Eyebrow
SE: Side of Eye
E: Under Eye
UN: Under Nose
Ch: Chin
CB: Collarbone
UA: Under Arm

More information

There are lots of websites, YouTube videos, and books about EFT. While EFT can be used effectively on your own, using EFT in a clinical setting with a trained therapist is even more powerful. This may partly be true because when we think about traumatic incidents from our past it can be hard for us to stay focused and follow the process clearly. When there is another person to hold the space, keep calm, and guide you through the process, EFT is very powerful.

If you would like to learn more about EFT, shoot me an email or give me a call. In my therapy practice in Bryn Mawr, I help clients using a variety of effective techniques like EFT. You can also check out the website of its founder, Gary Craig, at www.emofree.com.

Establishing Right Human Relations

The following article was published in the summer issue of The Beacon. In my therapy practice in Bryn Mawr, I try to bring this perspective in all my work with clients.

The effort to establish right human relations is helpful, indeed essential, in integrating the personality with the soul. The lack of “right relations” comes most often from a selfish attitude and an emotional body that is not held steady in the light. It is disharmony in personal relations that very often causes a person to decide that he or she must get hold of him- or herself and make some changes. Our relationships are indeed our greatest teachers.

The desire and the need for harmonious relationships is quite often the thing that puts us on our Path. The pain we feel as a result of disharmony is a real pain; brain imaging studies show that physical and emotional pain “light up” the same regions of our brains. What’s worse, the pain we feel when we are the perpetrator of disharmony is like added salt in our painful wound; we feel embarrassed, ashamed, or guilty, in addition to our angers and fears. This is a powerful combination that makes most eventually decide that Something Must Be Done.

The work, once committed to, involves a complete reorientation of thinking – away from oneself as victim, toward oneself as creator. When taking stock, we learn to reframe our point of view to include perspective-taking and empathy for the Other. We begin to practice “not taking it personally” and to recognize that when our emotions are getting riled up, it is not actually about the Other person, but about some wound in our own Self that is needing to be healed. We begin to have compassion for ourselves and to forgive ourselves ― that is an essential piece of personality integration. No longer can the mind spend oodles of energy denigrating the emotional body; instead the ego learns to befriend the inner child and to work with it, to heal it and create peace rather than continuing disharmony.

As we practice detachment, not taking things personally and not assuming that we know what the Other is thinking or feeling, we begin to task ourselves with cultivating Right Speech. We begin to be careful with our words, which slows down our emotional reactivity. Our relationships increase in harmony. With more harmony, we are able to create a spaciousness that allows us to strive for utter harmlessness and self-forgetfulness. The body relaxes; health ensues. The seven points of light begin to radiate and we become a fit vehicle of expression for the Soul.

When we have committed ourselves to a spiritual path, our lives change in incredible ways. The old emotional reactions and underlying assumptions give way to a light and peaceful experience. The very intention to bring more “spirituality” into our lives does indeed invite light, and love, and goodwill. These are the cause and effect of establishing right human relations.

A constant reorientation to spiritual values changes a person. At the moment we decide that there Must Be Something More, and determine to find it, our lives change course. A meditation practice may be the single most important tool for self improvement, and such a practice can be hung on the scaffolding of just about any religious or non-religious tradition. Whether we are searching for Peace through mindfulness or are devoted to the Buddha-nature, the Christ, Ishvara, the Divine, or the Beloved doesn’t matter. We begin to ascend the mountain and as we climb, we find that all of our paths converge.

With this awakening of inclusiveness, there can be no denigration of another spiritual tradition, no room for thinking “my way is the Right Way, and yours is, say, a ‘political ideology’”. From our place of inclusiveness we gain empathy and search for the reasons why people behave, often badly, the way they do. Rather than condemning and judging, we seek to understand and to aid, even as perhaps we wish that the reins of power were held by more-evolved hands.  Yet we find solace in knowing that we all learn through pain – individuals and groups alike,

As we work to invoke the Soul, not only do our worldly views become larger and more inclusive, our close personal relations do as well. We cannot but feel hypocritical if we make a fuss about a spiritual practice and then yell at our kids and criticize our spouses. Any momentary experience of mystical union rings hollow if followed by a fight at home.  The Love of the Soul has made its healing felt in every level of our personality-being and we begin to love and forgive ourselves, and from that peaceful place it is impossible to not-love or non-forgive others. And incredibly, when others criticize us we are far from defensive but rather seek to understand and find common ground. Exuding peace and love, others want to know how did we do that? Having sought the Light, the Light of the Soul has made its presence known and we are changed, and we are agents for change. Our seven centers begin to blaze and light our way, and light the Way for others.

EFT for PTSD

A treatment for PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) that uses no drugs, has no side effects, and really works―does that sound too good to be true? Research shows that such a treatment does indeed exist. EFT, the emotional freedom techniques, can resolve PTSD symptoms in as little as five sessions. Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest hospital systems in the US, just published clinical guidelines for using EFT to treat PTSD. The guidelines were created by Dawson Church and colleagues, after reviewing the literature and surveying 448 practitioners to see how clinicians are getting results. Their recommendation: five to ten sessions of EFT for people with PTSD. EFT works for PTSD. I use it in my therapy practice in Bryn Mawr.

PTSD: military, accidents, and beyond

We often think of war veterans when we think of PTSD, as well we should: the VA estimates, conservatively, that between 11% and 20% of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD (other sources put the rate at closer to 30%). The rates are even higher among Vietnam War veterans, with nearly a third suffering from PTSD. But PTSD is not just a problem for the military. Indeed, it can affect people who have been in any traumatic situation: those who have been in serious accidents, victims of violent crimes, or diagnosed with life-threatening diseases can develop PTSD; the death of a loved one can cause PTSD-like symptoms.

PTSD prevalence

Nearly 8 of every 100 Americans are likely to experience PTSD during their lifetimes. Most people will go back to normal after a traumatic event, but some will develop symptoms that last more than a month (subclinical PTSD) or three months (clinical PTSD) and that interfere with their lives. The symptoms involve avoiding or “numbing out”; re-experiencing, often with nightmares or flashbacks; and some type of hyper-arousal, like being easily startled, on edge, having trouble sleeping, even having angry outbursts.

Treating the “un-treatable”

After World War II, people used the term “shell shocked” to describe the symptoms of PTSD. For decades, it was believed that veterans could not recover from PTSD. More recently, researchers have been looking for ways to resolve the previously “unresolvable”. Pharmaceuticals have not been an effective solution. In a creative move, the US government invested millions of dollars in a virtual reality technology to help veterans with PTSD. But that program is only available to some veterans, and is very costly and hard to replicate. EFT is effective, safe, has no side effects, all for the price of a therapy session ― except for veterans, who can get services for free through The Veterans Stress Project.

To learn more about EFT and other kinds of energy psychology, see emofree.com, energypsych.org, and my website, transformative-therapy.com. EFT for PTSD can get your life back on track.

The Gayatri: Most Ancient Mantram

The Gayatri is said to be the most ancient mantram known to humankind. It is a statement of aspiration and devotion, placing us on the sacred path of return.

Several English translations exist. I learned the following one years ago. It was given by the Tibetan master, Djwhal Khul.

Oh Thou Who givest sustenance to the Universe

From Whom all things proceed

To Whom all things return

Unveil to us the true Spiritual Sun

Hidden by a disk of golden light

That we may know the truth

And do our whole duty

As we journey to Thy sacred feet.

The dual emphasis on knowing the truth and doing our duty are significant. It seems to me that to have knowledge without applying it is useless; and work without knowledge is fruitless. I think that the spiritual path encompasses both.

Yoga students and kirtan enthusiasts may be familiar with the Gayatri, which has been beautifully recorded by Wah! and Deva Premal. Next time you hear one of their beautiful recordings, you will have some meaning to attach to it!

 

Past Life Regression Story

Past-life regression therapy with healing can be very powerful tools, helping to accelerate our personal growth and spiritual expansion.  We are able to re-pattern old habits of thinking and feeling that have their root in the distant past, becoming free and effective people in the present. I am passionate about the benefits of this healing technique and have often used regression with healing with clients in my therapy practice in Bryn Mawr. It has been an important part of my own journey as well.

A personal tale

One of my most interesting past-life regression and healing experiences happened about a decade ago. During the session, I retrieved a lifetime in which I was a young sailor, a boy not more than 15 years of age. I was climbing the mast of a tall ship and my foot got caught in the rigging; I lost my footing and fell. I was badly injured with a broken hip.

As the regression proceeded, I saw that I went on to live as a disabled person. In those days, that meant that I became a “beggar”. I was left with deep self-esteem issues that continued to plague me in this lifetime. And, interestingly, I have a huge bruise-like birthmark on my hip.

Healing

Since the regression and healing session, I have changed in important ways. The birthmark is still on my hip; I still get dizzy when I look up at tall buildings. But my self-confidence began to improve almost immediately. I remember having two important and conflicting thoughts after the session: One, I was very skeptical that this had really happened! And secondly, I felt more comfortable in my own skin. Years later, I find myself looking back on this session as one of the most significant experiences of my journey.

Poetry from the Other Side

Here is a story from my therapy practice in Bryn Mawr. Earlier this summer, a client of mine―I’ll call her Beth―made her transition out of the body. I had worked with her for a year and a half as she battled a very deadly form of cancer. A few weeks before she died, I visited her in the hospital to do some Reiki healing. A couple of days later, I went back to do another healing session, but this time there were endless interruptions and the healing never got done. When I left her that afternoon, I told her that I would check in and do some distant healing. I went home with every intention to do distant Reiki, but when I tried to connect, I was told that I wasn’t allowed to.

Beth and I emailed each other and she wrote that she was in hospice. I offered to come and visit her and do some more Reiki. In a message on Tuesday, she suggested that maybe I could come on Friday. In the days that followed she was in and out of consciousness as I learned from texting with her husband. We never got the visit scheduled for that Friday, so I tried again to do some distant communication and healing.

When I connected with Beth, the first thing that I saw was an image of her body lifted over itself. And then she and I began to have a conversation, in which I was reassuring her that it was OK for her to go. I was guided to say things that I’d never thought of before, and the words flowed through me. It was OK for her to leave her teenage daughter. Her early death had been known since before her daughter was born, and all of the decisions that they had made as a family were leading to this point.

When I finished talking I saw my friend standing before a blazing sun looking radiant and reassured, confident, happy, and powerful. Three days later, she died. I attended her funeral, which was an amazing service filled with reverence and love. Many of the women in attendance were wearing head scarves, and some of them were printed with Beth’s poetry. The day was beautiful, and her spirit was surely there, proud to witness the love and devotion of her community.

On the day following her death, another friend of mine was giving a talk on metaphysics and channeling. At the end of her talk, she led our group through a guided meditation in which we connected with a loved one on the other side. In the exercise, we went up a flight of stairs and down a hallway into a room and sat on a bench. Next to us was a box. We were to open the box and see if it had any contents. Mine contained a scarf printed with Beth’s poetry, but I couldn’t read the words.

And then Beth was there. I started hurriedly talking to her but then decided to stop and pay attention! Immediately I saw an image of two women walking arm-in-arm down a ballroom floor, dressed in Victorian style clothing. After that I saw an image of a white horse’s head. Both images gave me the impression that Beth and I have been friends before – that was the reason we had such an easy rapport and felt so close.

And then Beth read the poem that she had written for me.
“True friendship transcends all bounds of time and place.
“The seeds of friendship once planted blossom over many lifetimes.
“Thank you for being my true friend.”

Thank you, my friend. It is an honor to have crossed paths again.

You Get What You (Think You) Deserve

In my therapy practice in Bryn Mawr, I often help clients resolve issues they have been dealing with for years. The issue may present in different forms, but at its core, it is the same thing, again and again.

Intractable issues?

Typically these intractable issues come in the areas of finance, relationship problems, or weight and other health issues. Even when we know, intellectually, that we should be able to keep our weight in check, or have healthy relationships, or freedom from financial struggle, we often let ourselves down, re-living the same problem again and again. We think we have it mastered, only to see it show up again.

Why? Why, after so much growth and effort, do we face the same stuff again and again? The problem lies deep in the subconscious mind, which is running programming from an earlier time in our lives (or lifetimes). On some level, the problem has become part of our identity; and on a deep level, we think that we deserve it. Consciously we know we deserve to be clear of it, but that doesn’t change the subconscious belief that we do not.

And it isn’t simply that the problem is familiar. Usually, on a deep level, we believe that we deserve to have the problem. That’s right: If you are struggling with some issue that seems to crop up again and again, chances are good that somewhere deep inside you believe you deserve it. On a deep level, you’ve bought the lie. The good news is that it is actually simple to find out what this reversal is and then to clear it. When we root out the mistruth we’ve been subconsciously repeating, the whole system collapses in on itself and we are free. I’ve seen clients laugh and cry when they release the lie. The world looks different and things fall into place.

And then, it shifts

Once an issue is cleared, it is cleared for good. However, sometimes there are layers upon layers that need to be addressed. Luckily, if a new facet of the issue is presented, it can be cleared in the same way the last one was. My approach combines energy psychology, hypnotherapy, and some neurolinguistic programming to efficiently resolve the issues, in a safe and peaceful way. It is always an honor to do this kind of work and so inspiring to see people make positive changes in their lives. Because they deserve  to!