About 5,000 years ago, the Chinese discovered a complex system of energy channels (called meridians) that run throughout the body. These meridians form the basis for our current practices of acupuncture, acupressure and a wide variety of other alternative healing techniques.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a healing tool that operates on the same principles as acupuncture, but it does not involve needles. It can be used to desensitize emotional triggers and reduce feelings of trauma in people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as well as alleviating emotional and physical symptoms (such as allergies) in the rest of the population. Clinical trials done with military veterans have shown positive results in just 4-6 weeks of treatment, eliminating the symptoms of PTSD in both the veterans and in their spouses (when both partners are treated).
PTSD is a disorder that has been caused by a traumatic event or series of events that later resulted in severe anxiety, fear, guilt, grief, insomnia, addictions, and depression. PTSD has typically been treated with antidepressant drugs and/or psychotherapy, but success has been limited, often short-term, and often with undesirable side effects from the medications. EFT offers an alternative to traditional medicine and therapists have found it to be a much less invasive method with no adverse side effects. By focusing on tapping on meridians or acupressure points on the head and body while thinking of specific issues or traumas, the brain learns to reorganize and react differently to memories of the trauma. The process of desensitization reduces the chances of re-traumatizing the person being treated, and it has the benefits of being able to be followed up at home without the assistance of a therapist.
Studies have shown that EFT works more efficiently than traditional approaches. An absence of client distress is a characteristic of EFT interventions which enables veterans to more easily work through the trauma they experienced.
Emotional Freedom Technique involves the client tapping on specific meridian points on his or her head and body in a specific order while saying affirmations and addressing the memories of trauma. The sequence is repeated several times in each session until the client indicates that the feelings of trauma have been significantly reduced. The combined meridian tapping and affirmations while bringing to mind the traumatic memories, create cognitive shifts in the brain and release the fears at the source. The trauma is held in the very tissues of the body, not just in the memory, and the EFT works at healing one layer at a time. The client with PTSD is guided through this therapy and works closely with the practitioner for a few sessions, then is able to practice the therapy on his or her own when symptoms surface.
Some relief from PTSD symptoms has been found with the very first session, and there are absolutely no negative side effects. While following this protocol, the client does not experience re-trauma in recalling these memories, and the emotional impact of the initial underlying cause is lessened with each EFT session. It has been found that only a few sessions with an EFT practitioner can considerably reduce or totally eliminate the symptoms of PTSD in military veterans, and the results have been found to be long-term. If any mild symptoms resurface, the client has the tool in his or her hands to address them immediately.
PTSD presents with many different symptoms: nightmares, insomnia, feelings of despair, guilt, loneliness, anxiety attacks, fear, depression, and often a reluctance or inability to form close personal bonds. It often leads to alcohol or drug abuse as the sufferer looks for ways to dull the emotional pain that they feel. It is a disorder that not only affects the individual, but also entire families and communities. The traditional way of Western medicine to treat PTSD is with short-term counseling and either anti-anxiety drugs or anti-depressants and sometimes sleeping pills. It can take years to find the right balance of medications, and often additional medications are then needed to counter the side-effects of the first ones. It can leave the clients frustrated, disheartened, and sometimes unable to continue treatment because of the mounting costs of medication and long-term expenses. The medication does not eliminate the underlying cause of the disorder; it acts as a band aid to cover the symptoms. Often the side-effects of the drugs (drowsiness and feeling “out of it”, weight gain, loss of libido) create even more frustration and despair.
Sometimes clients feel that they have been “cured” of the PTSD and take themselves off of the medication because they don’t like the side-effects. They plummet back deeper into PTSD and they, as well as everyone closely connected to them, suffer. It can affect the client’s job performance, and it is not uncommon for someone with PTSD to go from job to job because of an inability to cope. Additionally, there is a higher risk of deep depression and suicide among Veterans suffering from PTSD who cannot get long-term relief from their symptoms.
Ingrid Dinter, a Life Coach who specializes in helping Veterans who are suffering from PTSD, believes that Veterans are suffering in silence because they feel there is no hope for them to be healed: “Treatments in military and Veteran’s hospitals and clinics usually include medications and conventional forms of psychotherapy. At the same time, Veterans are usually told that PTSD cannot be healed. In my experience, however, there is a lot we can do to improve their condition profoundly”
Dinter says, “The Veterans and family members I have worked with feel that PTSD is not a mental illness, PTSD is a symptom of the soul. They describe “losing their soul,” “something breaking inside,” “a disconnect from the outer world and from their own true self.” The result is overwhelming loneliness, emptiness, living with “a wall” that protects them from the outer world. Every Veteran I have worked with who was diagnosed with PTSD has confirmed this in some form as his reality…”
In her online report “Alternative Medicine,” Beth Baker found evidence that the Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities support the use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) practices: “The VA wrote in an email that soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are expressing interest in CAM as an alternative to medication and that veterans who’ve used CAM practices have made testimonial videos saying ‘what a significant impact these therapies have had on their lives”. However, she also found that insurance companies are reluctant to cover CAM treatments because of skepticism about whether or not it really works. There is research and anecdotal evidence to support the effectiveness of CAM, but the insurance companies want more blind trials done before they will consider coverage. CAM therapies are cheaper than traditional medical treatments, but lack of insurance coverage puts the entire cost on the shoulders of the Veterans and it might be the deciding factor of whether or not they elect to try them.
Veterans continue to struggle to survive long after they are removed from combat and return home, and they are being done a great injustice by our society. They have put their lives on the line to protect us, they have endured horrific situations of war for us, and they deserve to be given an opportunity to heal their emotions and bring peace to their soul.
NOTE: Valerie Lis in the video above is one of the instructors in the Integrative Health and Healing Program that I completed. She also has a private practice treating clients with EFT.