EFT Case Study: Standing Up to an Abusive Father
I would like to share an EFT success story that is particularly
satisfying to me because it involves a long-term client for whom EFT
succeeded where other therapies I tried with her didn't.
a client "Linda" who started with me several years ago. She had a
severe abuse background with her father growing up, which continued up
until recently. He had a tradition of calling her every morning at 7am
and berating her for about half hour about how incompetent she was at
running her life. She is in her early 50's. She hated these morning
calls but, as a result of her life-long abuse, was terrified and
intimidated by him and couldn't say no to anything he wanted. When she
started therapy with me she had a hard time saying no to anyone,
especially men. Her friends also tended to take advantage of her.
was originally trained in Gestalt Therapy, which is significantly more effective than traditional talk
therapy. In this case, however, I worked with her for four years using Gestalt Therapy with
very gradual, incremental results. Over that time she developed some
ability to say no to some things with some people in her life but still
struggled greatly. She continued to be incapable of saying no to her
Towards the end of the four years, I got trained in
EMDR. I excitedly tried using EMDR with her on her worst abuse memory,
but didn't get much in the way of results after a couple of tries. Soon
after that she decided to stop therapy.
Two years later she
returned to do therapy again. In the meantime, I had learned EFT. We
started to work with her worst, most painful memory, which consisted of
her witnessing her father punch a hole in the wall right next to her
mother's head when she was 4. That experience resulted in her terror
and intimidation of her father (reinforced many times with other
experiences over the course of her life).
Before we started
processing her memory, I asked her how scared and intimidated she was
of her father today. She had a hard time rating her feelings with
numbers, so I asked her to show me with her hands (where a 10 would be
her hands as wide apart as they can reach). She indicated that she it
was a 10 with her hands. The right brain approach of using one's hands
seems to help clients that have a hard time putting numbers (left
brain) on feelings (right brain). This also works well with children.
We used the Tell the Story technique
to process the memory. She started by narrating the story, in present
time, at a point before anything bad happened. "I'm in the living room
playing with my dolls." "I hear yelling in the kitchen down the hall."
We tapped on, "Even though I hear yelling in the kitchen" until her
intensity went to 0 (hands completely together). She continued the
story, "I got up to see what was happening. I went into the hallway,
and the yelling was louder." We tapped on "Even though the yelling was
louder in the hallway" until her SUDS went down to 0. Note that I had
to stop Linda after each sentence and ask if she was having an
emotional reaction to her words. I had instructed her to stop as soon
as she was having any reaction at all, but she never did. I have found
this to be true with most of my clients. They tend not to voluntarily
report a reaction before the crescendo of their memory.
kept processing each part of the story until we reached her crescendo
(this included seeing a look of rage on her father's face and backing
her mother against the wall). The crescendo consisted of her standing
behind and to the side of her father, looking up, and seeing his fist
traveling towards her mother's face. She didn't know at first that it
would miss and hit the wall. "Even though Daddy's fist is going to hit
Mommy's face." This part took a lot of tapping, but we still managed to
reach a 0. We continued through the rest of the story until there were
no feelings left to deal with.
We then walked through the
whole story again from beginning to end. There was still no reaction. I
then asked her to show me how terrified and intimidated she was of her
father now, and she showed me with her hands that it was down to around
a 5 (as best as I could estimate from the distance of her hands). This
seemed like an encouraging result after de-charging only one memory.
weeks later, in our second session, I asked her to walk through the
memory again, and it was still pain-free. We then de-charged her second
worst memory in that session, again using the Tell the Story technique.
It went similarly to the first. I will leave out the details of this
session to shorten an already lengthy case study.
On the third
session, I asked her to walk through the second abuse memory, and this
time she did have some feelings about it even though it had been
"de-charged" in the prior session. She had gotten in touch with a new
aspect of the memory that hadn't come up the first time. We spent about
10 minutes finishing up that final aspect.
spontaneously complained about getting her usual berating phone call
from her father that morning. She said that she knew she should tell
her father that she didn't want to start her days that way but didn't
feel able to say so. I asked her what she was afraid would happen if
she said no to her father, and she got in touch with an irrational fear
that if she said no to him, he would feel so hurt that he would
actually have a heart attack and die.
We tapped on "Even
though Dad will get a heart attack and die if I say no to him." She
made some progress, but this fear was tough to get down to a zero using
that phrase. I asked her if anyone else in the family ever said no to
her father. She said that her brother did all the time. I then tried
some reframing with humor: "Even though Tom can say no to Dad at any
time, my no's are deadly." This got her laughing, which seemed to help
the process a lot, and her intensity came down the rest of the way.
have found the humor approach to be helpful with clients that have an
exaggerated view of the impact of their actions and/or self
condemnation. For instance, another client felt very guilty about some
negative behavior that she did towards a friend. She had tried to make
amends but was still beating herself up for it and had a hard time
forgiving herself. The breakthrough for her was when we used the set up
"Even though I am Satan's daughter." This was so absurd that she
laughed each time she said it, and her guilt SUDS finally dropped to
zero. (Note: this particular example would only work with someone who is not religiously offended by it.)
Soon after the third session with Linda, her father
requested that she come down for a visit. She declined his invitation
(a first). He later requested another visit, and she went that time.
When he opened the door, he looked very angry. Linda then put her hands
on her hips and said, "You're pretty angry, huh?" She then looked at
her watch and said, "But in five seconds you're going to melt." Her
father looked surprised, and then his anger did melt, he nodded yes,
and put his arms out for a hug. This was a HUGE behavioral change for
Linda. In the past, if her father looked even slightly angry, she would
completely collapse. She also took time to do things in the city on her
own during that visit, which she had never done before.
really like about this case is that it is a great "before and after"
example about the effectiveness of EFT. Sometimes, people will discount
EFT if that was the only technique used with a new client. They'll come
up with alternative explanations as to why the client got better (the
Apex problem). In this case, however, it was the same client with the
same therapist in both phases of therapy. Four years of Gestalt Therapy
and EMDR had only limited results. Three sessions of EFT was
By the way, after that visit, Linda's father spontaneously stopped the daily beratement calls.
Hugs to all,
Expert EFT Practitioner, Trainer, and Soulmate Attraction Mentor
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