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- An extreme trauma with a severe abreaction--and what to do about it
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- Successfully handling childhood molestation--a classy case by Nancy Morris
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- WAILING ON WALL STREET
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- Accessing the deeper levels of trauma stored in our cellular memory
- Taking the edge off of a molestation.
- Gillian Wightman leads us expertly through a complicated "father abuse" case -- a fabulous start
- Using EFT for "womb issues"
- PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
An expert discusses EFT and sudden trauma.
Note: This is one of 3,000 articles written prior to the updated Gold Standard (Official) EFT Tapping Tutorial™. It provides practical uses for EFT Tapping and most EFT'ers should find it very helpful. However, if your benefits are temporary or a more in-depth approach is needed, you are urged to explore our newest advancement, Optimal EFT, by reading our free e-book, The Unseen Therapist, and/or (3) get help from a Certified EFT Practitioner.
Dr. Larry Stoler is a seasoned expert with these tapping procedures, having been at the forefront of this movement for many years. He shares his expertise with two cases where EFT is used for suddenly inflicted trauma. After that, he makes some helpful observations.
EFT is an invaluable healing modality for helping people deal with the immediate or near immediate aftermath of a traumatic event. Here are two examples that show how EFT helped alleviate major acute stress symptoms.
I want to alert the reader that these clinical anecdotes may lead you to re-experience the emotional upset of old traumas. If this occurs, use EFT to address these distressing responses.
The first incident involved a female co-worker--I'll call her Jill-- who was brutally assaulted as she entered her apartment building. After an evening out, Jill entered the main door of her apartment building, walked through the foyer and, as she opened the inner access door to the apartments, she realized that there was someone behind her. As she turned to see who was there the attacker, a man who she never got a good look at, hurled a brick at her that struck her in the forehead. Amazingly, she was not immediately knocked unconscious and was able to scream for help. When she did this, he ran away.
The police were summoned. Bloodied and in shock, Jill remained conscious and was taken to the ER where she received many stitches across the bridge of her nose and forehead and was sent home. She was able to contact friends and received a great deal of support. Friends and family stayed with her for several days. Eventually, she was able to stay alone in her apartment. About 1 week later, she returned to work.
I spoke with her the day after the attack and she sounded remarkably composed. I offered to help her right away, but she didn't want that. It was important for her to feel that she could cope on her own. After returning to work, Jill told me that she was having intrusive memories about the attack and when I asked further I learned that she was also somewhat fearful in her apartment, and definitely apprehensive about walking into her building. In addition, she was blaming herself by questioning decisions she had made earlier in the evening that she believed somehow contributed to her being at risk.
She agreed to work with me. I introduced her to EFT and worked very directly on the trauma, beginning with any distress she felt as she recalled these terrible events. This included aspects such as her feelings ("this upset") as well as images that were disturbing to her ("these upsetting images") along with specific components of the images that remained upsetting after we did rounds of EFT. Her distress diminished dramatically after only a few minutes.
Next, we worked on more remote aspects of the traumatic event, such as her self-blame, her feeling weak and not powerful enough in her self-defense, and anger at the insensitivity of the police (when she returned from the hospital the police had not removed the brick--it was still lying on the foyer floor). Also, since the suspect was not apprehended we addressed any fears she had about this. (He has still not been caught). Finally, we addressed the upset she experienced when she looked at herself in the mirror and saw this major scar on her face. EFT treatment reduced the anxiety and distress in all of these areas dramatically and immediately.
We worked together for approximately 40 minutes. After this 1 session, she reported that she remained calm and essentially anxiety free. She did have occasional moments of anxiety and on one occasion had a disturbing nightmare. I encouraged her to use EFT to treat these. After doing this, her symptoms disappeared. She has returned to work and resumed normal living.
The second incident involves another sudden trauma, though very different from the first. About 2 months ago, one of my clinical colleagues at the integrative health center at which I work died suddenly in her home from a brain aneurysm. She was alive and vital on Wednesday. We know that she spoke to one of her friends as late as 8 pm that night. On Thursday morning she did not appear at work, something very unusual for her. People immediately suspected something was wrong when we didn't hear from her and she didn't answer her phone.
One of the administrative staff members--I'll call her Molly--volunteered to go to this woman's apartment to see if everything was OK. When she arrived, she found our friend's car was there. After some time, Molly was able to gain access to the apartment building and then finally to the apartment. When Molly entered her apartment all was still. Looking around for her, Molly looked into the bedroom where, as she opened the door to peek in, she found our friend's body on the floor of her bedroom. She was naked and quite evidently dead. She called 911 and our office and was quickly joined there by a couple of her co-workers.
There is much to say about the healing power of community support at times like these. Our center came together beautifully and we all shared our shock and loss together. A memorial was quickly placed in our colleague's office and in the waiting room for ourselves and our patients. This shocking event brought out the best in everyone.
However, Molly was plagued with nightmares and upsetting thoughts from that first night. As soon as I learned that she was having a hard time, I offered to help her. She thanked me for my offer, but didn't take me up on it at first.
About a week after our friend's death Molly told me that she would like to meet with me. When we met, she told me that she was having a hard time getting that first shocking moment out of her mind (when she opened her bedroom door and saw our friend dead on the floor). We spent some 20 - 30 minutes talking about death. What exposure had she had with death? What exactly stays in her mind? What thoughts keep returning? What feelings does she have? We talked about how different a dead person's body is from who they were when they were alive. I shared with her my experience of being with my father when he died, and of staying with his body for several hours afterwards.
When we began the EFT part of our work, we addressed the problem starting from the most distressing aspect--the shock of seeing the disturbing image that keeps replaying in her mind. The treatment reduced her distress quickly. Then I asked her to review in her mind the entire event, starting from whenever she felt it began until she felt it was over. She chose to begin in the car on the way over to the apartment. Whenever she experienced any upset, we treated it with EFT. Again, her distress would go away and she would report feeling OK about that moment.
The image returned a few more times in the course of the session (there were still more aspects to address), and we worked on it in global terms ("this image") and by breaking it down into the aspects that were bothering her ("her open eyes"). I then asked her to review the entire incident again in her mind to see if she felt OK about it. She told me that she felt much calmer about the whole incident. And in fact she looked much calmer and present in the room.
Since that session, she has felt calm about this incident--No further disturbing images--and has been coping very well since.
Here are several observations about these EFT treatments:
First, one thing that interested me about working with Molly is that I had worked with her briefly about 1 year before to help her deal with some test taking anxiety. That one session did not help her very much and thus we needed to work more together. However, she did not follow up for a second session. As it turns out, I wouldn't have been able to work with her for too much longer anyway. Out of a concern for the potential destructive apsects of developing dual relationships (that is, being her therapist and co-worker), I maintain a policy of not doing on-going therapy with co-workers. I usually work with a person on a very focused problem for 1 or 2 sessions, teach them EFT and will refer them to a colleague if more intensive work is needed.
So, it was very interesting that this work went so well and so quickly. Why was this the case? I believe that it had everything to do with the rapport we established in this session together with the fact that we knew each other as colleagues much better than we had the year before. Also, perhaps it helped that she knew that Jill (from the previous example) had benefited from working with me..
Second, in crisis work it is important to enter with confidence. Our confidence and reassurance helps calm and organize people when they are feeling distressed and disorganized. I felt very certain that Molly was going to feel much calmer after working together. This was not false pride or arrogance. It is what all of us who have been using EFT and the other Energy Psychotherapies know from our experience. Molly's experiences were not that different from many other people's traumatic losses. And those people had benefited tremendously from this work.
Third, to what extent is the traumatic situation resolved after EFT treatment? It is resolved in the sense that the person feels centered enough and capable enough to return to living life without irrational fear. Everyday routines of eating and sleeping and work and being around people return to normal. Still, in any major trauma the repercussions may continue to be felt on the personal or social level even after the immediate crisis reactions are calmed. It is not a sign of failure of this immediate treatment if this occurs. Rather, distress that appears in the future most likely reflects either new fear provoking situations (as when a victim has to give a deposition in a criminal case). Or, it may indicate new aspects of the trauma needing treatment.
Fourth, I almost always begin by using the EFT set up and the first 7 points (EB, SE, UE, UN, CH, CB, UA) only. Only rarely do I use the 9 gamut procedure, and as the therapy progresses I don't consistently do the set up. When I use the set up phrase, my typical statements are:
"Even though I have [this problem], I deeply and completely accept myself".
"Even though........, there is love and compassion in my heart."
"Even though........, the light of love and healing fills my heart"
While treating Molly, I deviated from the strict EFT algorithm and asked her to tap on other areas of her body. This process, similar to what Gary demonstrates on the advanced tapes, flows from an intuitive, empathic joining with the client. In the course of the treatment, I find myself drawn to an area or spot on the client's body, and I'll have the client tap or hold that spot. These points are often, but not always, acupuncture points I know.
To summarize, EFT is an invaluable tool in reducing, even eliminating, the psychological aftereffects of traumatic loss. It is hard to estimate how much unnecessary suffering could be alleviated if EFT was readily available to people in times of crisis. It is my hope that as more and more people become proficient in its use, and as research supports its effectiveness, EFT will be a frontline trauma treatment method.
Larry Stoler, PhD
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