There is a growing interest in therapy tools that go beyond talk therapy. Talk therapy is great. I’m a classically trained counselor, and I love talking with my clients about how they are thinking of the issues in their lives. However, there are certain cases when talking is just not effective. In those cases, body-based tools, like EMDR, EFT, somatic experiencing, etc., are very effective. These tools are having a hay day, as they should – because they work. Here are three reasons to use body-based tools in your therapy practice:

Trauma gets locked in the body.

Bessel Van Der Kolk’s book The Body Keeps the Score paints the picture well. When we have a traumatic experience, that trauma stays in our bodies. Whenever we remember the trauma, our physiology gets activated as if we were experiencing it again. Our hearts beat faster, we have a rush of cortisol in our blood, our brains change. These experiences happen no matter how much we logically understand that the past is not happening now. No matter how we try, we can’t think our way out of this. Our bodies go into fight-flight-freeze in spite of ourselves.

We have probably all experienced something like this, but here’s a story that illustrates the point. I work with people who have cancer, and therefore trauma. One client thought her oncologist told her she had stage four cancer. The oncologist had been telling her about the grade of her tumor. She did not have stage four cancer and quickly realized her mistake. However, in terms of trauma response, that understanding didn’t matter. Whenever she thought about being in the office and mishearing that diagnosis, she started to shake and cry. That is, until we did a couple rounds of EFT tapping. Since then, her emotions are clear when she remembers the experience. Today, not only her mind but also her body understand that she’s OK.

We all have trauma.

Trauma isn’t just the cancer diagnosis or the bus accident. It’s also the time the class laughed at you in fourth grade, or the time Dad yelled at you when you were six. We all have trauma, and it affects us to a greater or lesser extent, depending largely on the amount of trauma we have. Some of us have experienced more trauma than others, and that matters. Every succeeding trauma leaves us less resilient for the next.

The ACE study shows that the more of these traumas we experienced as children, the more problems we will have as adults. These problems range from increased weight to addiction to financial complications to cancer. We need tools to effectively deal with these underlying traumatic experiences as well as the more recent ones like the cancer diagnosis and the bus accident. And as we’ve seen, talking about them does not do the job.

Trauma clears when you involve the body.

The research on standard CBT for trauma is pretty dismal. People get a little better if they manage to stick it out through all the appointments, but most don’t stick it out, and all still are suffering when it’s finished. And I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s not good enough. It’s not her fault that she got cancer, or that he got hit by a bus. They sure as hell shouldn’t be suffering for years afterwards because we can’t find a decent tool to help them. Thankfully, the research on tools like EFT and EMDR show that these tools actually work.

Let’s take, for example, some of the worst cases: war vets. People who have served in combat zones have experienced things I can only nightmare about. They often come home with PTSD. In the old days, we thought that once people were “shell shocked” they were pretty much messed up for life. Then, we thought that some CBT therapy or virtual reality would do the trick, and it moved the needle a little. Today, we know that there are tools – body-based tools – the help people heal from even the most severe trauma.

The Veterans Stress Project has achieved great results in helping veterans overcome PTSD. One case study shows how six sessions of EFT tapping helped a veteran reduce his PTSD score from 60 (clinical range is 50 or higher) to 40, and down to 22 at six months’ follow up. Furthermore, EMDR is one of the most-researched tools for PTSD. It has a strong evidence base and has been adopted by the VA.

You can learn these tools.

If you are a clinician, you can learn to use these tools in your therapy practice. Your clients deserve it. EMDR certification is available through EMDR Institute. You can get certified in EFT through ACEP, EFT International, and EFT Universe. If you are a client, you can use EFT as a self-help tool to support your growth and recovery between sessions. You can also find therapists who are trained in using these tools. ACEP has a search tool, and Psychology Today lists Energy Psychology as a treatment modality.

Now that you know the three reasons to use body-based tools in your therapy practice, I hope you will consider using them!