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Fears And Phobias


Five sessions of EFT for a severe needle phobia - every detail needed tapping

Important Note: This article was written prior to 2010 and is now outdated. Please use my newest advancement, Optimal EFT. It is more efficient, more powerful and clearly explained in my free e-book, The Unseen Therapist™.  Best wishes, Gary

Hi Everyone,

Sometimes EFT'ers give up too soon on a difficult case and conclude that EFT "didn't work." Janet Hague, however, kept with her client's needle fear and vastly improved it. This article is a classic example of how persistence and being specific can bring big rewards.

Hugs, Gary

By Janet Hague, Lac, EFT-ADV

Hi Gary,

This is my first time posting to your newsletter.  I've been an avid EFT practitioner for some time and this recent case compelled me to write you.  I've always understood how specific EFT is but never was this demonstrated as blatantly as it was with my recent needle phobic client.  I thought this case might be useful to your readers.  By the way, as a preface, I am not a psychotherapist.  I'm an Acupuncturist with an undergrad in psychology.

A couple of months ago, a hypnotherapist referred a woman to me (we'll call her Eva), for a severe needle phobia.  It was so severe that the hypnotherapy session could never get started because Eva was hysterically crying upon arrival.  The mere thought of dealing with this fear was so intense, she couldn't even speak.  It's an interesting story because apparently, Eva's siblings and some cousins all have the same fear, and they all saw the same pediatrician as children, but none of them have any bad memories of this doctor. 

Eva has not had blood drawn since she was 13.  She is now in her thirties and is pregnant, and HAS to get blood drawn as part of the pregnancy protocol.  I was really surprised that a hypnotherapist was referring someone like this to me because I thought phobias were the perfect thing for hypnotherapists to treat.  The hypnotherapist reported that she had only seen this level of distress a few times in her career and wished me luck.  I couldn't wait to do EFT with Eva because this seemed like a perfect fit.

Eva arrived for her first visit, and just as with the hypnotherapist, she started uncontrollably crying with very few words.  So I just began tapping her as she wept.  After a few rounds the crying would slow and she would attempt to start talking about her fear and the weeping would begin and I would start tapping again and it would subside.  The first half of the session continued on like this. 

Eva started getting really sleepy and very relaxed.  She told me the story of the last time she had a shot.  She was 13 and had broken her nose and needed it reset.  It was a traumatic event and she was forcibly held down and given a shot.  So we went through this event with EFT tapping almost continuously, stopping when the weeping started so we could specify the aspect that was coming up and then create an appropriate setup phrase.

Interestingly, a generalizing effect happens in my phobia sessions after the first few details are dealt with.  But with Eva's fear, every last detail had to be addressed with many rounds of EFT.  Details such as: running in the hospital half naked in a gown; her mother's negative commentary; emotions such as anger and fear; feelings of being out of control; fear of dying; embarrassment and shame over her reaction; the orderlies grabbing her and holding her down; seeing the needle coming at her; the smells and coldness of the hospital, etc. 

We got her level of intensity about that event down to a level of intensity of 0 on a scale of 0 to 10, and now Eva could recount it with no feeling whatsoever.  However, thinking about her upcoming event was still completely overwhelming.

A very interesting fact came up in our second session together which taught me once again how specific we must be in using EFT.  I was inspired to ask her if she sewed.  I was trying to figure out if she was afraid of all needles.  Her response shocked me.  Not only was she okay about sewing, but she said, "you know what's funny.  I have no trouble taking sewing needles and digging splinters out of my feet or my husband's feet".  I then asked her how she deals with dental issues and was again shocked to find out that she can handle shots in her mouth. 

This phobia was very specific to shots in the arm or intravenous in the hand.  This gave me lots of good stuff for reframes.  We discussed how it wasn't the needle per se, because she's fine with a sewing needle which is thicker than a hypodermic, and okay with a needle in the mouth.  Instead, it was her response to a very specific needle situation that was the issue.  Using the contrast with the sewing needle really explained this to Eva. 

So we did several rounds on imagining sticking a big fat sewing needle in her skin and then switching that up with a thin sharp hypodermic needle.  Once we got all the aspects of the needle phobia down to 0 out of 10, it then became apparent that she was now more phobic about her expected response (sobbing) in the doctor's office than the needle itself.  We did several more rounds on accepting herself even with her weeping response to a needle in the arm.  With these rounds we dealt with all the shame and embarrassment over "losing it" in the doctor's office.

I also found it fascinating how certain words about needles were supercharged and others had no effect.  For example, the word shot didn't have a charge, but the word prick overwhelmed her.  So part of my approach was to throw out every word I could think of and deal with those that caused a reaction.  An example of an EFT round was "Even though I'm gonna get a prick in my big blue bloody vein..."I also pointed out the irony to Eva that she was sitting in an Acupuncturist's office to deal with a needle phobia.  Life is funny.

After we neutralized all the words around the needle concept, I started future pacing (an NLP concept) this upcoming BIG event.  A nurse friend of mine procured a hypodermic needle to play with (not actually use).  Once again, I was quite taken with the number of details that had to be dealt with one at a time.

Initially, just knowing there was a hypodermic somewhere in my office caused an extreme reaction.  Each step in the blood drawing process had to be dealt with for several rounds.  The flexing of the fist, the rolling up of the sleeve, the feeling of alcohol on the skin, touching the arm to look for a vein, the sound of the paper being torn off the hypodermic, the feeling of the needle on the arm (I just used the plastic part of the apparatus, not the needle), the sound of the plastic popping off as the vial is changed.

I learned with Eva that you can't go faster than the clients psyche will allow.  For whatever reason, (no memories ever came up), this fear was huge for her.  And the crying and releasing with each tiny aspect of the fear was so intense that she would get exhausted and extremely sleepy after about 45 minutes.  She would be so sleepy she couldn't feel any more charge about anything.  We would then finish off the session processing and integrating her experience.  This was NO one minute wonder!

I had a total of 5 sessions with Eva before the big event.  On the last session, her husband came with her and helped with the role playing of the event.  During this session, I stuck an acupuncture needle in my arm, and her husband’s arm and we tapped through that, until she was giggling about the whole thing.  Prior to this if she even saw a Band-Aid on her husband's arm from a needle she would become extremely upset.  I wanted to finish our work together by putting an acupuncture needle in Eva's arm, but she didn't want this.  I surmised from all our work together that she would be fine at the event (the next day) with everything except the actual feeling of the needle piercing her skin, since that's the one thing we hadn't tapped through.

Sure enough, the next day, she was fine in the waiting room, and with everything else until the needle went into her skin at which point she cried deeply and tapped through the event.  I was thrilled to hear that.  She said she only cried for a few minutes whereas in the past she would have been in a fetal position on the floor for days.  I explained to Eva that now that she had tapped through the actual needle prick that she would probably be fine the next time.  Of course, this fear has been such a big part of Eva's life that she doesn't believe it's gone, though she knows EFT made a huge difference for this particular event.  She just doesn't trust that it will hold.  Her husband, however, considers EFT a miracle and sees an enormous shift in Eva.

Who knows, maybe Eva will be coming in next time for an Acupuncture treatment!  Since I've never written in to this newsletter before, I'd like to make one final observation about the magic of EFT.  I was thinking about the different approach of EFT in comparison with another phobia technique which uses disassociation to overcome a phobia.  I'm thinking about the movie theater technique where you have the client in the movie theater watching themselves on screen in black and white, and then they move up to the projection box, further disassociating. 

What I love about EFT is that it seems that the EFT approach is the exact opposite of disassociation. We are taking our fear and moving completely into it, releasing all resistance with acceptance and love, and then the release happens all by itself.  And the end result is that we are disassociated from the trauma.  But we get there through complete connection to the feeling instead of disconnection.  What a blessing this work is.

I received a follow-up a few weeks after her "big event" - the dreaded blood draw.  Needless to say I was thrilled by her note. 

"Due to some recent issues with a muscle strain, I had to go back in and have more blood drawn again yesterday!  It went much smoother than last time and I didn't even shed a tear!  I only had a couple of hours to prepare for it, so I tapped beforehand and then again while going through the procedure.  I wasn't totally calm, but I was more at peace with it.  But the best news is I made it through the entire thing without even shedding a tear! Thank you for all the work you have done to help me in this time of need."

Peace to all,

Janet Hague Lac, MAOM, EFT-Adv, LMT


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