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Handling an abuse case in a quality way

Important Note: This article was written prior to 2010 and is now outdated.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,

Stefan Gonick gives us a detailed look at his extraordinary EFT work with an abused client. Dramatic changes occurred after his impressive use of the Tell The Story Technique, Crescendos (Specific Events) and Humor. Further, EFT succeeded rather easily where other well known techniques failed. This article is for serious students who would like to study a sophisticated case.

Hugs, Gary

By Stefan Gonick

Hi Gary,

I would like to share an EFT success story that is particularly satisfying to me because it involves a long-term client for whom EFT succeeded where other therapies I tried with her failed.

I had a client "Linda" who started with me several years ago. She had a severe abuse background with her father growing up, which continued up until recently. He had a tradition of calling her every morning at 7am and berating her for a half hour about how incompetent she was at running her life. She is in her early 50's. She hated these morning calls but, as a result of her life-long abuse, was terrified and intimidated by him and couldn't say no to anything he wanted. When she started therapy with me she had a hard time saying no to anyone, especially men. Her friends also tended to treat her like a doormat.

I was originally trained in Gestalt Therapy, which I had always considered to be significantly more effective than traditional talk therapy. I worked with her for four years using Gestalt Therapy with very gradual, incremental results. Over that time she developed some ability to say no to some things with some people in her life but still struggled greatly. She continued to be incapable of saying no to her father.

Towards the end of the four years, I got trained in EMDR. I excitedly tried using EMDR with her on her worst abuse memory, but didn't get much in the way of results after a couple of tries. Soon after that she decided to stop therapy.

Two years later she returned to do therapy again. In the meantime, I had learned EFT. We started to work with her worst, most painful memory, which consisted of her witnessing her father punch a hole in the wall right next to her mother's head when she was 4. That experience resulted in her terror and intimidation of her father (reinforced many times with other experiences over the course of her life).

Before we started processing her memory, I asked her how scared and intimidated she was of her father today. She had a hard time rating her feelings with numbers, so I asked her to show me with her hands (where a 10 would be her hands as wide apart as they can reach). She indicated that she it was a 10 with her hands. The right brain approach of using one's hands seems to help clients that have a hard time putting numbers (left brain) on feelings (right brain). This also works well with children.

We used the Tell the Story technique to process the memory. She started by narrating the story, in present time, at a point before anything bad happened. "I'm in the living room playing with my dolls." "I hear yelling in the kitchen down the hall." We tapped on, "Even though I hear yelling in the kitchen" until her intensity went to 0 (hands completely together). She continued the story, "I got up to see what was happening. I went into the hallway, and the yelling was louder." We tapped on "Even though the yelling was louder in the hallway" until her SUDS went down to 0. Note that I had to stop Linda after each sentence and ask if she was having an emotional reaction to her words. I had instructed her to stop as soon as she was having any reaction at all, but she never did. I have found this to be true with most of my clients. They tend not to voluntarily report a reaction before the crescendo of their memory.

We kept processing each part of the story until we reached her crescendo (this included seeing a look of rage on her father's face and backing her mother against the wall). The crescendo consisted of her standing behind and to the side of her father, looking up, and seeing his fist traveling towards her mother's face. She didn't know at first that it would miss and hit the wall. "Even though Daddy's fist is going to hit Mommy's face." This part took a lot of tapping, but we still managed to reach a 0. We continued through the rest of the story until there were no feelings left to deal with.

We then walked through the whole story again from beginning to end. There was still no reaction. I then asked her to show me how terrified and intimidated she was of her father now, and she showed me with her hands that it was down to around a 5 (as best as I could estimate from the distance of her hands). This seemed like an encouraging result after de-charging only one memory.

Two weeks later, in our second session, I asked her to walk through the memory again, and it was still pain-free. We then de-charged her second worst memory in that session, again using the Tell the Story technique. It went similarly to the first. I will leave out the details of this session to shorten an already lengthy email.

On the third session, I asked her to walk through the second abuse memory, and this time she did have some feelings about it even though it had been "de-charged" in the prior session. She had gotten in touch with a new aspect of the memory that hadn't come up the first time. We spent about 10 minutes finishing up that final aspect.

She then spontaneously complained about getting her usual berating phone call from her father that morning. She said that she knew she should tell her father that she didn't want to start her days that way but didn't feel able to say so. I asked her what she was afraid would happen if she said no to her father, and she got in touch with an irrational fear that if she said no to him, he would feel so hurt that he would actually have a heart attack and die.

We tapped on "Even though Dad will get a heart attack and die if I say no to him." She made some progress, but this fear was tough to get down to a zero using that phrase. I asked her if anyone else in the family ever said no to her father. She said that her brother did all the time. I then tried some reframing with humor: "Even though Tom can say no to Dad at any time, MY no's are deadly." This got her laughing, which seemed to help the process a lot, and her intensity came down the rest of the way.

I have found the humor approach to be helpful with clients that have an exaggerated view of the impact of their actions and/or self condemnation. For instance, another client felt very guilty about some negative behavior that she did towards a friend. She had tried to make amends but was still beating herself up for it and had a hard time forgiving herself. The breakthrough for her was when we used the set up "Even though I am Satan's daughter." This was so absurd that she laughed each time she said it, and her guilt SUDS finally dropped to zero.

Soon after the third session with Linda, her father requested that she come down for a visit. She declined his invitation (a first). He later requested another visit, and she went that time. When he opened the door, he looked very angry. Linda then put her hands on her hips and said, "You're pretty angry, huh?" She then looked at her watch and said, "But in five seconds you're going to melt." Her father looked surprised, and then his anger did melt, he nodded yes, and put his arms out for a hug. This was a HUGE behavioral change for Linda. In the past, if her father looked even slightly angry, she would completely collapse. She also took time to do things in the city on her own during that visit, which she had never done before.

What I really like about this case is that it is a great "before and after" example about the effectiveness of EFT. Sometimes, people will discount EFT if that was the only technique used with a new client. They'll come up with alternative explanations as to why the client got better (the Apex problem). In this case, however, it was the same client with the same therapist in both phases of therapy. Four years of Gestalt Therapy and EMDR had only minimal results. Three sessions of EFT was dramatically effective. It's hard to argue with that.

By the way, after that visit, Linda's father spontaneously stopped the daily beratement calls.

Hugs to all,
Stefan Gonick


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