How Can EFT Help?
As with any therapy or healing tool, once you decide to make a change, it’s important to be committed to the process. EFT is a user-friendly tool that can be used on the spot with uncomfortable emotions when they arise suddenly. On a deeper, more permanent level, EFT offers gentle techniques to address and let go of root causes of traumas, that can be anything from mildly annoying, to life-shatteringly invasive.
The process of EFT takes every precaution not to re-traumatize during treatment. Done with a skilled practitioner, EFT can get to the core of and release deep issues much more quickly than psychotherapy alone. The results have been shown to be more permanent.
With several techniques available at any given time, EFT anchors the client into the present moment, so as to help them keep a safe distance from the younger/traumatized self. The work is done from a place of mindfulness, and with the practitioner’s help, allows gentle unlocking of a former self frozen in time. The younger self may be holding fear, anger, frustration, etc. and may arise suddenly during life situations that can sabotage relationships and the capacity to feel happy
EFT works on both the energetic as well as the psychological level to unblock energy pathways and help discover limiting beliefs. These subconscious limiting beliefs that have locked feelings and responses in place. EFT offers a way to update these old limiting beliefs with current information about an environment no longer fraught with fear or danger.
PTSD and EFT: What is PTSD?
PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and is recognized as a cluster of often invasive symptoms, criteria. The DSM V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5) breaks down PTSD into various criteria and symptoms.
The following is excerpted from DSM V, along with a case study and links to articles supporting the use of EFT to treat PTSD.
These descriptions are NOT meant to help you diagnose yourself or your loved ones, but to better understand what Trauma and PTSD is, and how it can impact someone’s life. If you or your loved one feel that you may have PTSD, it is important to seek professional support and help.
What Constitutes A Traumatic Event?
Trauma is a sudden and forceful event that overwhelms a person’s ability to respond to it. The event need not involve actual physical harm to oneself; an event can be traumatic if it contradicts one’s worldview and overpowers one’s ability to cope.
In some cases, their repeated events may be the cause of sustained trauma such as psychological abuse.
Definitions of a traumatic event(s) include:
- Near death (or witnessed death)
- Serious injury, auto accident
- Sexual violence
- War, sudden explosions
- Natural disasters such as flooding, avalanche, fire, etc.
- Life threatening or prolonged illness
- Indirectly- such as witnessing or hearing of close friend or relative who has
experienced an accidental or violent event
Complex trauma includes the following:
- Repeated events, usually perpetrated by caregivers, family or professionals who were intended to keep a person safe.
How Does PTSD Manifest?
Survivors don’t necessarily have intense emotional responses at the time of the event. Symptoms may manifest later and look like the following:
Intrusive Thoughts, Feelings, Re-experiencing
Possible symptoms in someone who is re-experiencing a traumatic event:
- Intrusive thoughts or memories
- Nightmares related to the traumatic event
- Flashbacks-feeling like the event is happening again
- Psychological, emotional and physical reactivity to reminders of the traumatic event, such as an anniversary
Avoidant symptoms describe ways that someone may try to avoid any memory of the event, and must include one of the following:
- Avoiding thoughts or feelings connected to the traumatic event
- Avoiding people or situations connected to the traumatic event
Negative change in mood and/or cognition
- Memory problems that are exclusive to the event
- Negative thoughts or beliefs about one’s self or the world
- Distorted sense of blame for one’s self or others, related to the event
- Being stuck in severe emotions related to the trauma (e.g. horror, shame, sadness)
- Severely reduced interest in pre-trauma activities
- Feeling detached, isolated or disconnected from other people
Increased arousal symptoms
Watchfulness, distrust, skepticism
- Difficulty concentrating
- Irritability, increased temper or anger
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Being easily startled
Above symptoms must have lasted at least a month, seriously affect one’s ability to function and can’t be due to substance use, medical illness or anything except the event itself. Dissociation
Disconnection from sense of self:
- Depersonalization, or feeling disconnected from oneself
- De-realization, a sense that one’s surroundings aren’t real
Links to Articles on EFT and PTSD
Scientific Research on EFT Tapping – Tapping Research – EFT Studies
Releasing Trauma with EFT
Rapid Treatment Of PTSD With Psychological Exposure And Tapping
Free booklet and CD: The Tapping Solution by Nick Ortner
PTSD and EFT: Two Case Studies
Case Study #1
Paul was a tall, somewhat cautious man of approximately 54 years, who lived with his wife and their two dogs. Both of their children were living independently after graduating from college.
Paul agreed to try EFT initially at the behest of his wife. He presented with a somewhat “mild” desire to try to stop drinking, a decision that was fueled by his wife’s threats to leave him.
Paul divulged that his wife was “fed up with living with a man who was out drinking every night with friends; and when he was home, was rarely sober”. He said he couldn’t argue with her comments, and though he figured it was affecting her, he had never before had any desire to stop (drinking). Paul said he took care of all the things that needed attention in the house, he had a lucrative career and he never yelled at his wife. Paul said that even though he knew his wife might leave him, he felt helpless to change a lifestyle that had worked for him.
According to Paul, after the children went to college, his wife voiced her interest in the two of them traveling for pleasure. Paul however wasn’t so interested, and though he didn’t use the word fear, he said he didn’t like flying at all. Paul said he enjoyed his life as it was, getting off work and hanging out with friends. He admitted that his social life had become more focused around drinking, and that what activities he did partake in, always included alcohol. Paul also voiced that he was sad that his wife didn’t join his social forays, as many of his friends got together as couples.
Paul and his wife had met in college. Both of them had attended the usual parties, drinking socially and having fun together. After graduation, Paul and his wife continued to enjoy the occasional party, even after the kids were born. They enjoyed relaxing over cocktails with friends in their community, and in Paul’s eyes never considered drinking a problem. After getting pregnant the second time, Paul’s wife began to seek a healthier lifestyle, and as years went by she switched drinking for exercising. Not so for Paul, and although he saw himself in good health, as the years progressed, so did his drinking.
Tapping during the first session began with what was immediately present in the room, namely Paul’s fear of losing his wife, his home and the connection with his children. Though he initially presented with the mild desire to get help to stop drinking, what was most powerful for him was a possible loss that felt unbearable.
Paul’s fear and sadness was extremely high. His family was his rock and his anchor, without them he thought he would surely “fall into an abyss”.
As Paul began to make words of his life situation and learn the tool of tapping, his fear and sadness intensity lowered enough for him to want to return to therapy the following week. Having this new tool to use during the week gave Paul a way to contain the sense of emotional free-fall he was afraid of when he was alone-particularly as he attempted to remain sober He was afraid of being alone with the possibility of loss.
Paul agreed to be sober when he came in for his appointments.
Though Paul seldom discussed his inner life with friends or family, he seemed eager to divulge his emotions as he spoke, and quickly and even began discussing some historical facts about his life.
After his third session,Paul casually reported that he did not drive, and had in fact not driven for most of his adult life. He had earned to and drove briefly in high school because all the others learned, but had then “lost interest”. Paul remarked that he liked to take the bus into the city to work and usually got rides from friends if he went out. He laughed slightly when he said “at least he didn’t get DUIs”.
What emerged also wasPaul’s hyper-vigilance around his children learning to drive and his almost obsessive need, while they were living at home, to know where they were at any given time.
Upon further inquiry about his choice not to drive, Paul tried to recall when he “lost interest”. Something shifted as he felt a bolt of anger and helplessness shoot through him. Using EFT, Paul tapped on the emotions he experienced around the possible timing of his loss of interest in driving. The anger quickly dissolved into fear and parts of a memory re-emerged of an auto accident when Paul was a young boy. His father was driving (drunk) and he was in the back of the car. No one else was with them.
To prevent Paul from becoming flooded with emotion, he paused briefly to take a breath and resumed tapping on the feelings and emotions that were present generally. Once the charge was released, he could then tap on the memory of the story, piece by piece.
Paul continued to seek treatment for a few more weeks and we cleared most of the emotions around the memory of the auto accident. He cleared the charge he had carried around sights, sounds, smells, and the negative beliefs he’d created about himself and his world at the time of the trauma. The memory itself was not erased, merely the terrifying emotions that got locked in when the terrible shock happened. Once the trauma from the accident was cleared, what emerged was the loss of a father Paul had never really known. The loss of a man he had dreamed of every night but who was usually out and rarely came home sober.
After a couple more months of work, Paul broke through the silence he had created within himself, a silence of shame (about his father) and the constant underlying fear that he was, or would become just like him, unreliable and rarely sober.
Over the months Paul appeared to inhabit more of himself, his energy bigger and his enthusiasm for life brighter. Paul remarked one day that he had begun going to a “Harm Reduction” support group to be around other people who wanted to find a way to live with less or no alcohol in their lives. He liked the camaraderie and as he felt less in common with his drinking friends, he was happy to find new people to hang out with who were seeking a new and more choiceful way to live.
After about 4 months, Paul and his wife planned their first trip abroad. He tapped on what was left of his old fear of flying and he and his wife enjoyed their first international trip together.
After he returned, Paul brought his wife to a session. She had already learned EFT in a workshop and knew the process well. They worked together briefly as a couple to heal some of the wounds from their marriage, learning better communication tools and deepening the love that had been buried under years of disappointment, resentment and fear.
Paul now has a better relationship with his children and he has even allowed them to talk him into getting back behind a wheel to drive again.
PTSD and EFT: Case Study #2
Amira, a 42 year-old woman sought therapy for depression and irritability that she felt was destroying her relationships with her husband and two daughters. She was experiencing more and more of a sense of isolation from friends, and mostly kept to herself at work. As Amira talked, she had her head lowered for most of the first session.
Amira had heard of EFT through the Mother of one of her daughter’s friends. She had previous experience with family therapy and several years of individual therapy before seeking treatment with EFT. Amira felt that none of the prior therapies had helped and she was afraid to open up in case she might feel out of control again and so had given up. Amira was clear she didn’t want to feel disappointed yet again on top of everything else.
At first Amira was very guarded. As she began to talk about her current life, she expressed concern about “losing it”, and said that she never knew if the “out of control” part of her might not come out and seize her words. Amira choseher words carefully and spoke particularly slowly. She closed her eyes when she spoke, as if to shut out any response from the outside.Amira She shared that she seldom, if ever, felt like she could relax because she never felt completely safe even in her own home, which she had created with so much love and spent so much time in.
Amire shared that she couldn’t remember a time when she truly felt safe. She also remarked that it felt dangerous to even express that.
The most immediate need was to address Amira’s present sense of safety and what resources she had available to ground herself should she ever dissociate or begin to feel out of control.
Amira had as a young child frequented a wooded area near her home, somewhere that she could be alone or with friends, and that she associated with safety. Amira’s current home was also in a wooded area that she said reminded her of “her woods” and she used this place to “come back to” should she feel she was becoming overwhelmed or dissociated in a session.
Amira’s tapping time was under 30 minutes at first so as not to get overstimulated., She quickly learned EFT tapping points and how she was able to lessen the immediate emotional intensity around a thought or feeling. Once she had a tool that could help her feel more stable and empowered, she gained a small sense of accomplishment, she was motivated to continue. self determination.She could now begin to use this tool to help her to feel a sense of empowerment and influence on her own life. Something she could use as needed in her everyday life.
As Amira continued to tap on her feelings of safety in the moment, themmediate fear remained low enough to begin to clarify a timeline of her life’s emotional course, beginning with a general sense of un-ease and fear.
Work proceeded slowly and gently, always resourcing and using the present moment as a stabilizing force. Mindfulness and perspective were crucial to meet what could easily revert to overwhelming emotions.
Slowly memories began to emerge, and even more care was taken to use techniques that both anchored Amira in the present, as well as releasing the physical/emotional/spiritual traumas from the past with tapping.
Amira had come to this country when she was about 7 years old. She was witness to monumental political events that she had no way of understanding or making sense of. In the violence outside her home and ensuing upheavals, she also lost her father. Amira’s mother collapsed emotionally after her husband’s death. As the only daughter, Amira fell in to keep the home and family together, as her Mother couldn’t cope.
The family remained in the country of Amira’s birth for several months after the initial violence. Disorder was prevalent, and the unfolding of social upheaval reigned. During the months following there was little to eat, and in the chaos Amira was raped twice as she went out to find food.
There was no one in the family with whom Amira could discuss her circumstances. Her Mother was too depressed, and her brothers she felt, would blame her for the acts of sexual violence perpetrated against her.. In fact, Amira herself had no idea how to explain what had happened to her, and consequently she buried the pain, both emotional and physical.
Like peeling the layers of an onion, as the intensity of Amira’s fear and un-ease became more manageable, her glimpses of possible safety (however brief) gave her the impetus to continue. Amira began to challenge her life-long beliefs that she’d developed to initially protect her, memories became more available to her, and she was able to address and tap on trauma’s she had suffered even before the political upheaval that surrounded her life at 7 years old.
Amira shared a picture of herself as a young girl in the country of her birth and at times she tapped on that little girl from her adult self. A deeper and stronger connection with her younger self was slowly taking place. Opportunities to tap on more and more specific memories emerged, releasing blocked energy that held these “younger selves” captive.
As the layers unpeeled, it emerged that Amira had, long before the revolution, survived repetitive traumas that had occurred in her home, and had early on shaken the very ground on which she walked. Trauma that broke her trust in even those who were there to nurture and protect her.
With gentleness, consistency and trust, Amira released more and more blocks. She was able to address and tap on more limiting beliefs that had been formed in the name of seeking protection. As blocks were released over the months through tapping, core beliefs and limitations that revealed themselves, became available for “updates” with the life that Amira is living in the present.
As evidenced here, tapping isn’t always a “2 minute wonder”. With a multi-layered history such as Amira’s, thoroughness, consistency, curiosity, respect and trust (not speed) are of the essence.
Stabilization, resourcing and pacing have been an integral part of the work of PTSD and EFTin every step, and continue to guide the way as the tapping does its work.
Though the memories are not erased, today Amira has for the most part, a sense of control back in her life. She is no longer in constant fear that she will “lose control” or hurt the ones she so dearly loves. She is empowered in having created safe spaces in her beloved home and has learned ways to communicate her feelings and needs rather than lash out when she feels ill at ease.
Amira learned that her anger is not an emotion that makes her unacceptable but rather a messenger to herself that she pay attention to her needs. Once upon a time it served a purpose of protecting more vulnerable emotions that were difficult or life threatening to show.
NOTE: Amira’s story is of complex multi-level trauma. It is highly recommended that healing of this nature be addressed with a trained, experienced practitioner.
Today Amira has tapping as a tool she can use and shape into what she needs. She has developed language to communicate (first with herself) what she is feeling emotionally. Amira is feeling a deeper right to ask for what she wants and needs. She is not long in constant fear of losing control with her family, and though she still suffers periods of melancholy, she no longer hides from her friends or family. Amira enjoys her work more and through honesty and sharing has developed a deep, loving and communicative friendship with her daughters.