EFT Trauma Relief Techniques: Five Steps to Ease EFT Anxiety
"EFT offers trauma recovery victims control of the recovery process right at their fingertips. By incorporating the ideals of modern trauma therapy into Tapping, the comfort and healing of the patient is always at the forefront." - Tijana Coso
When I first started my stress relief and coaching business with EFT I didn’t focus on Trauma. My mission was to help people move ahead on their goals and careers by uncovering underlying stress and anxiety blocking them from success. However, it didn’t take long for me to learn that the majority of time the “reason” clients came to me had nothing to do with what was currently bothering them. More often than not, through EFT the client discovered a childhood adverse experience, or uncovered a trauma that was still driving unwanted behavior or beliefs.
I don’t know why this was such a surprise to me. The very reason I quit my career and became a coach with EFT is because of a personal trauma. I am just like my clients; however, I’ve just made it to the other side of the trauma. Wow, how far I have come that I didn’t see the same connection!
Or maybe I was trying to create some distance with denial. Either way, my work has brought me back around to one of the gifts of EFT – lowering anxiety. Whether the anxiety stems from past adverse childhood events or traumas that still impact one’s life.
I also learned that people are extremely resistant to “go back and Tap on the trauma.” Oftentimes they would say, while holding back tears, “that was a long time ago and it really doesn’t bother me.” Or, “I went through counseling a long time ago and I am over it,” while at the very same time nearly crying while discussing how this adverse experience created their fear or anxiety around what they are currently going through. Clearly, there is more to this past traumatic experience that has yet to be fully addressed.
Beyond the Talking Cure
According to trauma specialists Bessel A. van der Kolk, M.D. and Peter Levine, PhD, the greatest tool in helping clients understand and heal from a traumatic event is the body. Like these preeminent researchers, I have seen over and over again that words alone didn’t help my clients heal from a known or unknown trauma. Sometimes these were large traumas like abortion, rape, and abandonment, and sometimes they were what we in EFT like to call “small T’s” (or sub-traumas) – these are experiences that maybe wouldn’t deeply affect everyone, or when the experiences occur you don’t realize the impact, but they create an indelible scar on your life and continue to adversely influence your life without you even knowing it.
If you’re interested in learning more about subconscious small T’s or need an example of them for understanding, check out my blog “The Small T.” Either way, my clients did not sign up for trauma work with me, and they really did not want to address it.
“Geez, I just came to you because I was stressed with the new promotion at work and you are telling me that it has to do with when I was 8 years old standing up to my dad when he was raging at my mother?”
Actually, I never told them that. That little bit of trauma came up through innocuous Tapping on the work promotion. Hence, this is how I quickly ran into people not wanting to “go back there” and face the trauma again. I soon learned that EFT was an ideal tool to lower anxiety around trauma while keeping people from becoming too flooded with their fearful memories.
Trauma Informed Care best practices extol that early client trauma work should focus on establishing a sense of safety to help the survivor build confidence in their ability to stay safe to discover, self-regulate, and promote healing, while preventing further harm from hyper- or hypo-arousal. This reduces the risk that reviewing the trauma will cause emotional flooding and re-traumatization during the process. from revisiting the source of the patient’s trauma.
For these reasons, using Emotional Freedom Technique is quickly becoming a “go to tool” for TIC (for more information about the benefits of using EFT for TIC read my blog on Tapping & Trauma Informed Care.) TIC, when supplemented with EFT, then becomes a patient driven therapy that can ease the recovery process and give survivors the tools they need to accept the past and move forward to a brighter future.
Below are the steps I use to ease the anxiety around EFT when working with trauma survivors. I added a couple more points to help caring professionals when utilizing Tapping with their clients/patients.
Let the Client Lead. Assure your client that nothing is required, and the goal is healing, not to re-traumatize them.
Guide Their Choice. Ask if they would be open to learn a little about the research on Trauma Relief. If yes, give a very short explanation about why it is necessary to address the past trauma to heal. Survivors don’t have to go back to the event, but learning how the emotion is trapped within their body is key to overcoming it. For more on this, see Bessel Vanderkolk’s “Beyond the Talking Cure” and Peter Levine in his book “Healing Trauma,” or click here for my explanation in my blog post: “Trauma Healing and the Body.”
Research also suggests that educating clients on the research behind trauma relief and the process helps with a client’s openness and acceptance. Additionally, offer a couple testimonials of people just like them who are survivors who have recovered from all of their trauma triggers by using a somatic experience.
If you don’t have your own testimonials from clients, you can use mine.
3. Identifying the Obstacles. Describe the process that you personally recommend for Trauma work, including EFT as the first, least emotionally intrusive, option (read the SAMSA TIC Guidelines here.)Personally, my first step is to create a name for the trauma (a.k.a. “Trauma Name” (TN.) This is a word or super-short statement that identifies the trauma incidence: It can be something like “that day”, or contain slightly more details like “The attack“ or even a date “September 11”. If you’d like to learn more about creating Trauma Names, read my blog “Aiding Trauma Relief with Trauma Names.”
Depending on the client, we may not start with a TN because even that is too emotional. We may just tap and breathe until they are able to talk. Other times we begin with resistance to discussing the trauma. We tap on the fact that they don’t want to do this or talk about this because it’s too emotional. Conscious or unconscious resistance to the process is a huge stumbling block. Even if a client has verbally said (and they actually believe) that they are ready and willing to address their trauma, I still start with Trauma Recovery Resistance Tapping. Phrases like, “A part of me wants to get over this and a part of me is resistant.”
I also have had clients that were just angry to have the trauma still intruding on their lives. We had to work with the anger or rebelling first. For example, “Even though I don’t want to be here, I am angry that I still have this trauma running my life. I choose to give a voice to this feeling,” (and so on).
4. The First Step. If they still choose not to move ahead right now, offer to give them a phone number of an advocate who is willing to share their trauma relief experience with EFT (maybe someone in your agency or former client who advocates publicly). Either way, awareness is the first courageous step and something to be acknowledged.
5. Self-Empowerment. Give them the gift that keeps on giving: Teach them Simple EFT with STM to lower their anxiety anyway. My motto is “Some help is better than no help.” I have found that over time, with the confidence my clients have gained in the ability to self-regulate their emotions and lower every-day stress, many of them have become more open to revisit the trauma event. They become empowered with the knowledge that they can regulate ALL of their emotions and oftentimes come back ready to address the trauma.
*Photos used found on www.thetappingsolution.com and www.helpguide.org