“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you and then you win.”
– Mohandas Gandhi
When our soldiers come home from soul destroying combat zones, it’s not just the returning veterans who “pay” with their injuries – visible and invisible. The collateral damage to spouses, children, parents, friends, colleagues, even entire communities is monumental. Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome affects everyone.
The United States has sent soldiers into war for each of the current and last eight decades. The repercussions of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) are far-reaching, and frankly, accelerating into yet another national crisis.
The Pentagon is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to research effective treatments for PTSD. Most of them involve traditional psychological counseling, talk-therapy, and prescription drugs. Unfortunately, after eight decades of “treating” veterans, it has become compellingly clear, that those treatments largely offer temporary relief, and more often than not, survivors of war remain the “walking wounded.”
There appears to be a very promising non-pharmaceutical treatment that in clinical studies is showing lasting long-term relief from PTSD. Victims of PTSD who have been in traditional counseling and/or prescription drug treatment for decades, are now experiencing the ability to see, think, feel, and be highly productive again, without sleeping and waking within the insidious cloud of PTSD.
This is a profound discovery, because PTSD affects not just individuals who have been in war zones. PTSD is a highly prevalent affliction for those who have faced any significant emotional and commensurate psychological trauma. Those frequently diagnosed with PTSD include survivors of violent crime, tragic accidents, childhood or adult sexual assault, suicide, near-death experiences, earthquakes, tsunamis and other adverse life changing disasters.
Unfortunately, diagnosed or not, human beings tend to underestimate the far-reaching nature of trauma they have experienced, or feel shame, or weak, and therefore do not seek treatment. Awareness that one is not alone with the problem is the first step. Knowledge of a viable solution, along with the willingness and courage to give it a try is the critical next step. Being able to financially afford treatment is another hurdle often insurmountable to overcome. All of these issues seem to be beautifully addressed by EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique – Energy Psychology – a scientific discipline and practice that is now part of an extensive clinical program and study being conducted by the Iraq Vets Stress Project.
EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique combines Eastern energy healing, based on the centuries-old practice of acupuncture, with Western psychology. EFT involves lightly tapping on specific acupressure points while bringing into focus the issue or problem one wishes to address by naming it and talking about it. I often refer to the process as “tapping and talking” or “energy tapping,” while others have called it “emotional acupressure” or “psychological acupuncture without the needles.”
Admittedly, to the casual observer, EFT may seem odd and overly simplified to be an effective therapeutic tool. An EFT session involves gently tapping on acupressure points on your face, upper torso and head with your fingertips. Furthermore, it is proving relatively easy for clients to learn how to use EFT as a self-help tool. One might ask (and many people do): “How could something so funny-looking and simple relieve deeply-entrenched phobias, recurring or constant anxiety, or transform a person’s experience of an old trauma?”
This is an important and valid question, with reams of anecdotal evidence recounted by individuals describing jaw-dropping accounts of elimination of serious distress including clinical depression, anxiety, haunting traumas, shame, addictions, and other serious maladies. This is especially remarkable, because other interventions either took much longer to get results, the positive changes were short-lived, or the side effects of the intervention (read: “medication”) were not worth the level of therapeutic benefit being achieved. In other words, achieving the quality of life desired fell short in some way.
As a clinician and therapist, that’s the description of something that’s not effective! Sadly, it’s also the description of the “established” model for treating mental malaise, illness and disorders. Talk about your problems ad nauseam with your analyst/therapist/psychologist, take medications prescribed by your doctor or psychiatrist if talking by itself isn’t doing the trick, and “Hey, no promises because this is, after all, a ‘soft’ science.” Settling for these forms of treatment because they are “evidence-based” does not do justice to the thousands and thousands of people suffering with everything from mild stress to debilitating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
A Case Study: 2011 Thoku Earthquake and Tsunami
The 9.0 magnitude Thoku, Japan earthquake in March 2011 led to an unexpected, impromptu, and powerful EFT session conducted by telephone.
The client, an adult female, was visiting the Far East for business purposes, and was scheduled to give a detailed and complex professional presentation to a room full of strangers shortly after our call. The 2011 Thoku Earthquake and Tsunami had just occurred the day before on the neighboring island of Japan.
She was becoming temporarily paralyzed from taking action as a result of the debilitating symptoms of severe anxiety and a high level of distress in response to the earthquake in Japan. Although she did not actually feel the earthquake, a prior devastating personal experience with a highly destructive California earthquake was launching her into a dramatic PTSD episode. That California earthquake had resulted in fatalities and the complete destruction of her home in the dark morning hours while she was asleep and her infant daughter was alone in the other bedroom.
A highly evolved individual, she had done therapeutic work following the California earthquake, in order to process the experience, and move on. The tricky part about PTSD is that often times, no matter how much work you’ve done to overcome a traumatic experience, PTSD has a will entirely of its own. When reactivated – it can come back with a vengeance – propelling a fight or flight reaction – which is often helpful – but can sometimes be debilitating – leaving the individual more vulnerable than ever. Imagine when this condition is experienced collectively, such as in response to 9/11-related trauma, or genocide in Libya and other parts of the world.
The client was traveling completely alone, without instant access to friends or family that typically help one to achieve calm in these situations. Fortunately, through a positive twist of fate, she called a mutual friend who was visiting me at the time, and this friend asked if I was available to conduct an EFT session, which we proceeded to do.
We began to tap somewhat generally on her anxiety about the earthquake, her sadness over the loss of life that had occurred and seemed to still be growing, her fear of earthquakes in general, her anxiety about her presentation, her feeling of loneliness as a woman on her own in a foreign country.
We tapped together on all these issues and her level of distress came down, but not dramatically.
She then informed me that prior to this call, she’d spoken to some people she knew in the U.S. These other conversations, instead of making her feel better, only made her feel worse. I was curious about this, so I asked her to say more. The crux of the matter was that in the midst of her distress, several people’s responses were more like: “Well, why are you so upset? You’re not even in Japan!” and what she needed was, “I can see why this would be so distressing to you.”
Here was the real source of her distress. Once we tapped on that, her level of distress on everything else, just melted away. By the end of our call (which probably took about 30 minutes), she was feeling a great deal of relief, and was ready and eager to make her presentation.
This is an actual case study and illustration of how quickly and powerfully EFT can affect a person’s level of distress – and resolve it so the individual is able feel positive, and act accordingly. It was also instructive for me as a practitioner for a number of reasons:
(1) I have never met this woman in person (before or since) and, although she was highly motivated to experience relief, she didn’t know me from Adam. Where therapy relies so heavily on the relationship of therapist/client, EFT can work wonders without a long, established history of interaction to get results; and
(2) Although EFT is accessible to anyone who wants to use it on his/her own, the results can be much more powerful when working with someone who has been trained not just to listen, but to hear, and to read between the lines…leading to what I call “power questions” that take the conversation exactly where it needs to go.
EFT: Clinical Research
Clinical research on the effectiveness of Energy Psychology modalities for the treatment of mental health disorders such as PTSD is slowly being funded and conducted, but of note, formal trial research is essentially in its infancy.
The current ongoing study being conducted by the Iraq Vets Stress Project focused on treating combat veterans for PTSD is so far very promising. At the Iraq Vets Stress Project, they estimate that so far, over 300,000 military personnel returning from the war zones of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other combat regions are suffering with PTSD. In response, the Project is offering free or low cost EFT Energy Psychology “to help veterans with PTSD get their lives back.”
As a result of the therapy being conducted by the Iraq Vets Stress Project, deeply traumatized veterans are finally experiencing real relief, and are able to talk about their experiences without becoming re-traumatized – a risk sometimes found with some of the more traditional methods of psychotherapeutic treatment. Many of them literally have a new lease on life. To become involved in the program, and to make donations, contact the Iraq Vets Stress Project at: www.stressproject.org.
For those who want to learn more about the clinical research that has been, and continues to be conducted on the effectiveness of EFT, I recommend the following:
(1) A fabulous book, by David Feinstein, Ph.D – a skeptic-turned-believer, Clinical Psychologist Donna Eden – an Energy Healing Practitioner and Gary Craig – Creator and Founder of EFT: The Promise of Energy Psychology: Revolutionary Tools For Dramatic Personal Change (2005, New York, Penguin Group)
(2) EFT Universe website: www.eftuniverse.com. Specifically, there is an entire library of peer-reviewed articles describing various studies. On the left-hand side of the EFT Universe home page, under the “RESOURCES” tab, select: “RESEARCH” and explore whatever sparks your interest. The direct link to that page is: http://www.eftuniverse.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=18&Itemid=21
Energy psychology is a low cost, easily learned technique, which can be self-administered, and does not necessarily require prolonged interaction with trained therapy service providers. In contrast to drug therapy, Energy Psychology has no adverse side effects. At the very least, it generates a relaxation response, which, by itself, can create an internal emotional and psychological environment where better life choices can be realized. Energy Psychology does not require years and years of treatment. Quite often, although not always, the level of distress is alleviated quickly and permanently. There is nothing to be lost by introducing this new paradigm of healing into the mainstream TODAY.
One might think the Veterans’ Administration and other governmental agencies would be jumping onto the Energy Psychology bandwagon. But the decision-makers want and require clinically based evidence of its effectiveness, as well as a scientific understanding of the mechanisms at work in the brain and body that trigger this healing.
One can’t blame them for exercising some healthy skepticism. But research takes money, and money takes time, and time continues to run out for many who are suffering.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you and then you win.”
– Mohandas Gandhi
This is often the journey of new ideas and paradigm shifts. So it is no surprise that the emerging field of EFT Energy Psychology is on a similar path.
Meanwhile, PTSD is at war with vast swathes of people – nationally and internationally. In response, EFT is a low-cost, easily deliverable option for providing immediate – and in more and more cases – long-term relief and emergence from the “Heart of Darkness” of PTSD.
It is this writer’s hope that word will spread and spread fast – that people will begin to consider Energy Psychology with the same curiosity and ultimate acceptance, the way we once “considered” psychiatry, anti-depressants to treat clinical depression, acupuncture and chiropractic for pain relief and healing in ways that other practices could not.
For those who have experienced the direct or collateral damage of PTSD, and utilized EFT to achieve freedom from the debilitation of PTSD, including myself – I imagine they, as well as I, would say to you:
“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward.”
– Leonard da Vinci
Celenia earned her Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology from John F. Kennedy University (Pleasant Hill, CA) in 2009. Prior to that, she had been trained as a Life Coach at the Coaches Training Institute (San Rafael, CA) in 2003. After earning her M.A., she experienced the traumatic loss of her son and was introduced to Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) to support her through her grieving process. It literally changed and saved her life. In 2010, she began her EFT certification journey with EFT Universe, and has completed Levels I and II, and plans to complete Level III of her advanced training later in 2012. She lives and practices EFT in Martinez, CA (in the San Francisco Bay Area), but she offers her services nationally and internationally via telephone, Skype and iChat. She has produced a short 4-part introductory video series about EFT.
Also a lawyer, she thinks that she has finally mastered the PTSD caused by the “paper chase” in the first year of law school <LOL!>