by Steven Kessler, MFT, EFT Expert & Trainer
As a psychotherapist who teaches EFT to other therapists, I am often asked, “How do I introduce EFT to my established therapy clients?” This isn’t as simple as it might sound, for many reasons:
Many clients have been in therapy for a long time. They have a long, consistent experience of it and have come to expect that the future will be like the past. It may be the only stable thing in their tumultuous life, and they want it to stay the same.
Many established therapy clients use their therapy time to process their feelings from the week’s events. They need that processing time and do not want anything else to take its place. They don’t know that EFT can help them process their feelings faster.
They have been taught by therapy that the one way to digest an experience is to tell the whole story out loud, feeling and expressing each emotion fully. The more they have bought into this idea, the more an easy, rapid digestion process may leave them feeling like they have lost something. Being ‘a good therapy client’ may have become a source of self-esteem. They are an expert at the old way, which makes them feel good about themselves. Trying a new way makes them a beginner again, which may bring on an attack from their inner critic.
Therapists face many of the same difficulties and a few more:
- long established habit, comfort, and pride in their skill with what they already know
- fear of looking unskillful with something new
- fear of the client judging EFT to be stupid or silly and then judging the therapist, also
- fear that if their clients get better too fast, their income will shrink
Long-term therapy provides a steady income stream for the therapist, without the need for new clients. If clients start getting healed and leaving in a few sessions, the therapist will need a steady stream of new clients.
Here’s what works for therapists who are just learning EFT:
1. Practice, practice, practice — on friends, colleagues, yourself. Often, being part of a consultation or practice group helps by providing a supportive structure for your practice. You have to be comfortable, skillful, and confident of EFT before you bring it into session with long-established clients. You need to have mastered it enough that you can dance with it and improvise in the moment.
2. Face your fears about using EFT — Do EFT on those fears, each of them, and on the core fears under them. You have to clear out all that underbrush before you can deliver EFT confidently. I went through this process myself, for quite a while, until I came to the realization that there is enough suffering in the world to keep me employed. Instead of fearing the loss of my steady clients, I realized that if I provide better results, my reputation and income will grow. And so it has.
Then, when you’re ready to bring EFT into your sessions with long-established clients, don’t start by talking about it, explaining it, or making promises about its results. When you do these things, you are engaging your client’s mind. Bad idea. Their mind has been conditioned to accept the world as described by science, meaning physical materialism. In that world, energy streams in the body and instant cures are not possible. You don’t want to get into a tug-of-war with that part of them. Their mind is where their skepticism and fear of change live — don’t engage it. Their mind is also what guards them against truly new and mysterious experiences, like EFT. It believes it is keeping them safe and it will fight fiercely to protect them, so don’t fight with it.
Instead, engage them through their body. Wait patiently for a moment when they are in real emotional distress — maybe sobbing or furious or filled with fear. Then simply say; “Try something for me. Tap right here” and show them where by tapping on your own body. If they ask “Why?”, don’t bite. That is their mind trying to engage your mind. Bring them back to the body by saying something like “Right here” or “Just try it” while tapping on yourself. Then, without explanation or setup phrase, simply take them through tapping on a few different points. I like to start with the collarbone (or KC, if they seem reversed), or any that are easy to find. Don’t worry if they’re off the point, as long as they’re tapping. This is not the time for perfectionism.
As they tap on a couple of points, their emotional intensity will most likely obviously decrease. When you see this (or even if you don’t), ask “How’s that?” or “How do you feel now?” Often a quizzical look will pass across the client’s face and they’ll say something like “What just happened?” or “What did you do to me?” They’ve had a bodily experience that their mind cannot explain and their mind wants answers. Don’t feed their mind; feed their experience. Say “Try some more” and take them through some more tapping, still keeping it simple and easy to follow.
Play out the experience of their emotional shift for as long as you can. This is what you want, a felt shift that their mind cannot deny. Sometimes they will be so taken with the shift that they will forget about asking how it works and just want more. This is great; just go with it. Sometimes they will say “You distracted me,” to which I reply “Okay, get yourself upset again.” Then, either they will try and find that they somehow can’t, or they will admit that they really don’t want to. Either way, they know that something happened, and that something is what will persuade them that EFT works. The principle here is that people will believe their own bodily experience, not your explanation, so give them the experience first.
After they’ve had the experience of a felt shift in their own body, they will ask how this works in a new way. Instead of scoffing or demanding proof, they will be curious. Instead of using their mind to ward off a new experience, they will be asking for help getting their mind around the new experience that they just had. And, with a little encouragement, they will begin to wonder what else EFT can do for them.
When that happens, your introduction of EFT into your work with this client has been entirely successful.