Tag Archives: EFT

Healing Trauma

Many of my clients have experienced trauma, whether it is losing a loved one, getting divorced, or being diagnosed with a serious illness. Traumatic experiences are part-and-parcel of our human experience. They can be the defining moments of our lives, and how we deal with them – or don’t – has a tremendous impact on what happens next. We used to think that PTSD was “incurable;” now we know that healing trauma is possible, and relatively straightforward.

Short term and long term impacts

In the short term, surviving a traumatic experience changes how we see ourselves. We are not as safe, and the world is not as trustworthy, as before, leaving us feeling powerless, isolated, and afraid. The haunting memories of trauma can come up unbidden and disturb our peace, leaving us to wonder if we will ever be at ease.

The longer term impact of a trauma is determined by how significant the trauma was, how many stressors and traumas we have previously experienced, and whether we have resources to help us release the trauma.

Hot memories

There is some evidence that small pieces of a traumatic episode live in our memory in a “hot”, emotion-laden way; they have split off from the rest of the trauma story. These pieces of trauma memory are the grist for flashbacks and re-experiencing. Knitting the hot pieces back into the story as a whole seems to cool them down and helps reduce flashbacks and other trauma responses.

Wishing we could forget

Most people who have experienced trauma try to forget that it ever happened. The problem is that trying to forget is ineffective; forgetting is impossible. Fortunately, there are some very effective techniques to help with healing trauma. They all involve purposefully remembering the traumatic incident in detail from beginning to end.

Here are some strategies that are effective in healing from trauma:

The first three strategies are out-of-the-box approaches to healing trauma that are gaining traction. I have used them in practice and my clients are finding them to be super helpful:

Narrative exposure therapy

NETis a storytelling technique that was created to help people in war-torn countries recover from trauma. In this simple approach, people tell their trauma story in detail, over and over again, until they can tell the story without feeling upset. When I use a version of this with my clients, they become calm and the memory loses its “hotness,” usually in one sitting.

Neurolinguistic Programming’s Trauma Cure

The NLP trauma cure involves some form of watching the memory as if it were a movie, starting before the trauma and ending after the trauma, in fast-forward and rewind. They way that I use it in my practice includes adding a funny element to the memory. This is a brief technique, and my clients find it super helpful. Clients might start out being barely able to tell me what happened, and end up smiling about it. And that is something to smile about!

Meridian Tapping Therapies

Techniques like EFT help to put the trauma highlights into a cool context. In EFT, we tap on meridian points while talking about our emotion. (To learn more about EFT, check out my posts here.) Clients start by telling their story, and as soon as they get to a hot spot, we stop and tap. They move on to tell the next part of the story, and again we tap when they get to a hot spot. I always ask my clients to rate their trauma on a 10-scale, and even if they start out by saying, “it’s a 100”, by the end of our session, they are usually at a “0.”

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: A mainstream approach to healing trauma

The CBT approach to healing from trauma is similar to the narrative exposure therapy described above. With CBT, you the story to a compassionate listener, starting at the beginning and ending at the end. It is an evidence-based approach to treating trauma.

Many paths, same mountain

There are many effective approaches to healing trauma, and they are so simple and effective, it is a real shame that people continue to suffer. Together, maybe we can create a shift. If you know of someone who is suffering, please tell them that help is available. There is a database of EFT and energy psychology practitioners here; there is a list of NLP practitioners here; and Psychology Today has a list of practitioners that is searchable by type of therapy and issues addressed.

Healing trauma is possible. Let’s spread the word.

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.

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.

Is tapping really necessary? Here’s the deal with EFT tapping.

I have used EFT and other meridian tapping therapies both for myself and with many clients in my therapy practice in Bryn Mawr. I have seen issues―even really tough ones―clear up quickly, almost magically. These results intrigued me, and prompted me to do some research about the field of Energy Psychology; you can read some of it here. People sometimes wonder if tapping meridian points is really a necessary ingredient to EFT’s success. One particularly bright and educated client of mine said that he believed it was exposure (the repeated statement of the problem) coupled with a self-soothing technique (tapping) that helped people get clear of their issues. He is a psychologist, so he thinks about these things. The topic has been widely debated, and he is not alone in his suspicions. And the research shows that―he’s wrong.

EFT researchers have begun conducting “dismantling studies” to separate tapping from the cognitive and exposure portions of the protocol. The first study that attempted to parse out the components of EFT’s success were (EFT skeptics) Waite and Holder. In 2003, they conducted a study comparing three tapping conditions (EFT, sham points, and a doll) to a non-tapping condition. However, they mistakenly used EFT points, because they asked participants to with their fingertips, which contain meridian points. Participants in all three tapping groups showed significant improvements; the non-tapping group did not. Waite and Holder concluded that EFT owed its success to distraction and desensitization. But they failed to take the fingertip meridian points into consideration when they reached this conclusion. Perhaps because of this, their study is an outlier when compared to other EFT studies.

In 2013, Louis Fox conducted a study to parse out the components of EFT’s success.  He compared EFT to a control group that used the cognitive and exposure portions of EFT with mindful breathing instead of tapping. The tapping group did significantly better than the control group. In 2014, Rachel Rogers and Sharon Sears conducted a similar study but in this case the control group used sham tapping points. Again, the group that had tapped on actual acupressure points had significantly better results. The most recent dismantling study was conducted in 2015 by Reynolds, who also compared EFT to a group using sham tapping. And again, the EFT group had better results than the control group. (This study is in press; to be published in the Energy Psychology Journal)

The research bears out again and again what EFT practitioners and enthusiasts have intuited for more than a decade. Tapping meridian points and focusing on the problem is the recipe for success. EFT has helped thousands of people overcome a variety of emotional issues. If you would like to learn more about it, I highly recommend EFT creator Gary Craig’s website, along with the Association of Comprehensive Energy Psychology‘s.