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Can EFT tele-classes cause problems for some participants?

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Hi Everyone,

Rue Hass begins her article with...."What if you are taking a teleclass, and something that the volunteer tapper is working on triggers an unconscious memory for you.  You find yourself lost in a powerful emotional response that scares you - you feel out of control.  What do you do?" This is a useful point and I include it here for your consideration. Please note that I have never seen any direct evidence that tapping causes abreactions like this. Rather, it appears that people's abreactions come from within themselves during a therapeutic setting. As far as I can tell, it is the therapeutic setting that triggers things, not the tapping.

Hugs, Gary


By Rue Hass

What if you are taking a teleclass, and something that the volunteer tapper is working on triggers an unconscious memory for you.  You find yourself lost in a powerful emotional response that scares you - you feel out of control.  What do you do? 

What if you, the practitioner, are doing a telephone session with someone, and your client goes into a serious abreaction?  (An abreaction is the sudden expression of a previously repressed emotion caused by a spontaneous re-experiencing of a traumatic event)  How should you handle this? 

Or, what if you find out later that a participant in your teleclass got so emotionally overwrought that she had to leave the call, and you didn't know about this?  What if she really needed help, and there was no one around?

After a recent teleclass, I got the following email from a participant who had had this latter experience.  Her email raises some important questions.  As more and more people begin to do individual and group telephone work, our EFT community needs to develop some strategies for handling these kinds of situations, and make them widely available to all EFT practitioners.

Here is the (slightly edited for comprehension) email conversation I had with this participant, named Fran, shared with her permission. 

Fran's Email

Hello Rue,

I have a concern regarding these tele-sessions for people who have had major traumatic events which are somehow coupled into one global mess of emotions.  I have had two experiences in tele-sessions, the first I was SO UPSET I had to hang up and slink away, I was so over the top.  The second was yesterday with you and I did not hang up as I was so in awe of you and your abilities I thought for sure you would be able to facilitate the process in a way to get me back down to some kind of resolution.  The result was devastating for me and it took one hour afterwards to get a grip and be able to function, yet left me fearful of EFT under any circumstance except with a personal session.

I don't think tele-sessions are a responsible way of dealing with people as you have no way of knowing who is out there and how they are doing.  My first experience of going out of control was in a class where the facilitator used me as tapping volunteer, and tried to take on all my issues which again seemed to go global to include "everything."  I spent the rest of the day sitting out in the car (I had driven over with another person) and vomiting and sleeping, really just out of it.  The person giving the class had no idea what to do with me and never even inquired where I was or what had become of me. 

That time I was very shaken for quite some days.  It has been a couple of years later and I decided to try the tele-session where I just hung up the phone and that was a bad experience.  Then a few months later I decided to try your tele-session because of the great articles of yours I have read on Gary Craig’s web site, and I had such hope and faith in you as a facilitator who could handle a session safely for all.

My concern is how many other people are out there having similar experiences to me?  I now know that I am not a candidate for a group tele-session or even a class, as I could need more attention than could be given to me in a class situation and it wouldn't be good for me or others who want to move along and rightly so.

I realize that many on your call were facilitated to a shift and completion and benefited greatly.  My question is, what about those who just hang up and go off in great pain without any way to "get back down"?

I believe Gary Craig claims EFT can't hurt anyone, yet I am not a person who is on or ever has been on any medication.  I am not mentally ill.  I have had traumatic life issues like most everybody perhaps more than usual though I am not a judge of that, so I don't know what to think.

While it is certainly convenient for the facilitator to do these tele-sessions, is it safe for everyone?  How can you know who you are dealing with?  Maybe more caution needs to be taken.  Could tele-sessions where you can't see people and know what is going on be a responsible way of dealing with traumatized people? 

I don't know the answer to this question.  I am sure this method will continue on.  I am just putting these thoughts out there for consideration.  Of course, money for private sessions is the drawback for many and that is the appeal for the group session at no or a lower cost.

I have been so impressed with your writings and in person I am sure you could work magic.  I especially liked and used your ebook "How to Get from Mad to Glad."  I used that on myself and got a great release.  You look like and sound like and I am sure you are just the most caring, loving lady and a great therapist able to help many who have the funds to afford you personal attention.

Thank you for wading through this.  Fran

My Response:

Thank you so much, Fran, for your letter, and for your nice comments about my writing.  You raise some very important points. 

You ask:  Could tele-sessions where you can't see people and know what is going on be a responsible way of dealing with traumatized people?

I absolutely agree that teleclasses are not the way for someone to deal with major traumas in their life.  As you say, there is no way for the facilitator to know who is out there and how they are doing, and you may not know how to ask for help. 

Personally, I realize from reading your letter that I need to add a caveat to my web page about teleclasses, saying that a one-hour trial teleclass can't provide the best healing environment for a person who has serious issues and is easily triggered.  A one-time teleclass, especially a complimentary one, is not a good place for free therapy.  But there is no way I can "enforce" that.  As a facilitator, I have to trust that people will take responsibility for themselves.   

Here are some of the strategies that I use to create a safe environment for telephone work.

Private telephone sessions are less of a problem, because I do my best to establish a deep rapport between me and the client over time.  From years of experience I can sense when someone is going over the edge, so to speak, and I trust my judgment and my skills to go with them and hold them and both of us in a safe space until their emotion resolves.  EFT is an excellent tool for this. 

It is so important that I "do my own work."  That means that I have to have resolved my own issues so that my emotions don't get triggered by my clients' feelings.  Especially in telephone work, I have to be able to hold my space, be clear and grounded and present in every moment.

I have had clients go into severe abreaction and even hypnotic trances while on the phone. Each time I have asked for help in an inner way. No matter what your sense of your own spirituality is, I think we all can ask for—and receive—help from unseen sources in times of need.

Each time I have found my client falling into an abreaction, I put all my attention on the person at the other end of the line, talking constantly to them in a quiet soothing voice, reminding them to "stay with me ... stay with me ... you are doing a good job..." over and over and over as we tap together. 

It is so important for the practitioner to "get out of their own head," find a calm centered place in themselves, avoid the tendency to worry and self-talk, and just be present with the hurting person on the other end of the line.  That in itself is calming.

I stay away from or approach very gently what triggered the emotional reaction until I can hear and feel that the person is returning to stability.  When they feel to me like they are "back," I do a lot of testing to make sure that the trigger and the emotional response has been soothed and disconnected from the memory.  This is exactly what EFT does.

For each teleclass that I offer, I always ask people to fill out what I call a "Story Map" beforehand.  This is a series of incomplete sentences that begins with this sentence:  "I had to_______ or else_________."  Each following sentence adds a bit of information about how the person's family expresses this belief, an example of a problematic time with this belief, what that made the person feel and think, and so on until a "story" emerges.  I think of this story as a map of the person's inner life, a kind of structure that holds their old behaviors and reactions in place.  To continue with the metaphor, our job with EFT is to remodel this structure to co-create a better "home" for our lives that invites different reactions and behaviors that feel better to us.

The Story Map has several purposes.  Filling it out can be a triggering experience in itself.  I ask people to have taken care of their initial emotional responses to this before the class, so that they are at least somewhat emotionally balanced within their story when they begin the class. 

Before the class I have also asked tapping volunteers to send their completed Story Map to me.  I evaluate each Story Map before the class.  I have a sense of what the tapper wants to work with, and I only need a little time during the class to gather some more information before we begin to tap.  I also have some sense of what might possibly come up, although as you know, this can't really be predicted.

For a one hour complimentary class I am looking for a tapping volunteer with a "Story" that is typical of many peoples' problems.  I want to choose a Story that can be made specific.  I want it to suggest a fairly clear path toward resolution, or more likely the opportunity to plant good seeds for healing.  That helps me to choose the volunteer that will best serve the larger purpose of the class, which is to introduce people to what is possible with EFT, introduce myself as a practitioner, and give them a taste of what being in an EFT teleclass with me might be like.

I remember reading your Story Map, Fran, and feeling drawn to it.  You offered a lot of good material to work with.  But I also realized that the issues that you bring could easily go beyond the scope of a one hour class with a large number of participants.  I didn't choose your Story Map for exactly the reasons that you are talking about in your email.  I am so sorry that you felt devastated in the class.  You are clearly a sincere and heartfelt person, and I believe that you could benefit greatly from deep EFT work.  And yes, I do think that personal work with an experienced practitioner is the best path for you.

If I am working with someone who gets into unexpected emotional territory, whether it is on the telephone or in person,  I certainly would stay with the session until they felt enough resolution that they could carry on afterwards on their own, even if the class/session went over time.  And I ALWAYS test and re-test, asking lots of questions, to make sure that they are doing OK with their issue before we complete the session.

My intention in a complimentary teleclass is that the volunteer's tapping experience be useful for the other people on the call to borrow benefits from.  I also want to make this free healing service available to the EFT community on a regular basis.  And as you pointed out, EFT teleclasses make this healing work available for a really reasonable rate to people who might not be able to afford one-on-one work.

My EFT Circle teleclass itself lasts for a longer time (an hour and a half) and meets weekly with the same people each week.  At the beginning of each class I ask people to pay attention to their responses as they are tapping, and I ask them to make sure to take care of themselves.  I ask them to use their good judgment and respect the space of the class, but at the same time if they are experiencing some strong emotions I want them to feel free to un-mute themselves (each person is in control of their own telephone sound muting) and ask for help if they need it. 

If someone did need help I would engage with them right then until they felt more in control of their responses.  I suggest that if class participants feel that they might be triggered, they should have a person nearby, or on call, that they can reach out to for help. 

I also teach people in the class some strategies for calming themselves when they are in the grip of a strong reaction or memory.  One of the best strategies is to tap rapidly up and down the points, constantly, talking nonstop to yourself about what happened and how you are feeling, not bothering for the moment with the standard set-up phrases.  I have used this strategy myself many times when I am feeling overwhelmed in some way. 

I saw Gary Craig use this technique in a workshop of 400 people.  In the midst of his session with a volunteer on stage, tapping about abuse issues in her past, suddenly a woman in the audience fell into a strong abreaction.  Gary left the stage, came all the way back to where the woman was sitting, and gently, confidently, reassuringly tapped on her face and upper body up and down, up and down, talking with her in a calming voice, until the woman had returned enough to the present moment that an emotional assistant could go out of the room with her and help her to deal with what had come up.

Before the teleclass tapping session begins, I ask everyone for a moment of silence.  Each of us holds the group in a healing circle, asking for the highest and best outcome for of us on the call, and for those who will be listening to the tape that is made available afterwards.  I ask people to translate this "prayer" into their own spirituality.

In these weekly EFT Circle classes, I usually work with one person in the group, while everyone else is tapping along, borrowing their benefits.  In that situation, I feel fairly confident that I can hold the person I am working with in a safe space.  I have done a lot of telephone work, and I have indeed had experiences of people going into strong emotional abreactions that take them by surprise.  So I rely on my experience, and the many strategies that I know for helping people to move through an emotional storm.

I personally like to work in a very deep way, at the spiritual identity level of the person I am partnering with in the work, and that can bring stuff up.  But at the same time, I wouldn't go where I don't feel capable, and without hesitation I would recommend that the person seek other professional help.  I am not a credentialed therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist, and sometimes that kind of help may be what a person needs. 

In the EFT Circle class I always make it clear that I trust each person to be responsible for him or herself.  I am doing this work with deep heart and lots of faith that it is meant for good.  I trust that the participants are taking it in the same spirit, and with the same sense of responsibility.  And a light heart!  In these situations, my whole focus is on the person I am working with, again with the understanding that if someone else on the call really needs help, they will ask for it.  We have dealt with some deep issues, and some powerful responses.  So far, we have been able to handle them.

But even with the best skills and the best precautions, there are no guarantees of outcome, ever.  This is true even in face-to-face sessions.  Or life, for that matter.

My intention with the EFT Circle classes is to make deeper healing work available to more people at a lower cost, and to give people lots of tools that they can use in their own self healing work.  I never intend to "fix" people.  I never think of people as broken.

Generally teleclasses work well, I think, for most people involved.  Obviously there are exceptions.  Choose practitioners whom you trust.  Leave the experience if it isn't working for you.  Trust yourself!

That's it for starters.  Thank you so much, Fran, for taking the time to write such a thoughtful response about your experience.

And again, I invite all of you reading this to offer for all of us your own ways of creating EFT teleclasses and individual telephone sessions so that they are a safe space for change.

Rue Hass

 

 

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